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How Long Do Water Heaters Last?

Your water heater is not something you can just ignore and assume it will work forever. Many high-quality tank water heaters only last for 10 years or so. If you’re unsure about how old your water heater is or you’re

Your water heater is not something you can just ignore and assume it will work forever. Many high-quality tank water heaters only last for 10 years or so. If you’re unsure about how old your water heater is or you’re deciding if you need a new one, you’ve come to the right place.

Tank Water Heaters Lifespan

Tank water heaters generally have a lifespan of 8-12 years. If yours is above 8 years old, it’s a good idea to have it looked at and see if you need a replacement or maintenance. Your water heater may have lasted a long time, but it’s better to replace or repair it before you wake up and find out that it doesn’t work or, like many of our customers, you have a leak.

There are some key things to look out for that will tell you if your water heater is near the end of its life. Check out our blogs “3 Signs You Need A New Water Heater” and “Should I Repair Or Replace My Water Heater?” to learn more about whether or not you need to get a new water heater.

Tankless Water Heaters Lifespan

Tankless water heaters can last around 20 years or maybe even longer. Tankless water heaters last much longer than tank water heaters because they don’t need to store hot water constantly. That means that the corrosive particles in the hot water don’t get the chance to destroy the inside of the heater as much as they do with the tank water heaters.

That said, it’s a good idea to take care of your tankless water heater. Proper maintenance is especially important compared to tank water heaters because tankless water heaters are a bigger financial investment. If you take care of your tankless water heater, you’ll be able to reap the benefits for a much longer time than if you just neglected it. One of the key ways to maintain your tankless water heater is flushing. Check out our guide on how to flush your tankless water heater here.

Read more about how to get the most out of your tankless water heater in our blog titled “How to get the longest life from your tankless water heater.”

Factors That Impact Your Water Heater’s Lifespan

One of the main factors that can impact your water heater’s lifespan is your water’s hardness.

When examining tap water that comes into your house, you can think of it as either “hard” or “soft.” Hard water has more than the average amount of trace minerals and particulate matter in it. As you might guess, soft water has less than the average amount of trace minerals and particulate matter. 

If your water is especially hard, then that means your water heater will gradually collect more and more sediment. This sediment can collect inside the water heater or attach itself to the interior lining of the walls. Eventually, this will make the water heater less and less efficient to the point that it may not even work.

If you have hard water coming into your home, it may be worth looking into getting a water softener installed. A water softener will collect that sediment and particulate matter before it has a chance to get into your water heater and do any damage. If you’d like to know more about getting a water softener, check out our blog post, “Do I Need A Water Softener?”

So How Old Is My Water Heater?

Well, if you’re like many homeowners, your hot water heater came with your house. If you’re lucky, you have documentation that goes with your water heater that can tell you its history of installation, use, and repair. But if you’re like many of our customers, you likely don’t have any idea how old your water heater is.

Fortunately, you may be able to get an idea of your water heater’s age by looking at the water heater itself. Somewhere near the top of the water heater, you should be able to find a serial number. You should find it on a sticker that may have a bunch of other numbers and information like the model type on it. The serial number usually contains numbers that indicate when the water heater was made. While this isn’t necessarily when it started active use, it should give you a pretty good idea of how old it is.

Again, within that sticker, we’re looking for the number or character string labeled “Serial Number”. Once you find it, you’ll have to find a way to decode it. Different water heater manufacturers use different methods of storing information inside their serial numbers. To be sure you find the manufacturing date correctly, you’ll need to look up how to read the specific water heater manufacturer’s serial numbers. Here’s a great website where you can go and find your water heater’s manufacturer and how to read your serial number. First, find your manufacturer’s name under the alphabetical dropdown lists, then find the serial number style that matches your water heater’s serial number. The site has extensive amounts of both manufacturers and serial number styles, so you should be able to find the information you need.

As an example, we can go over how Rheem stores the date within some of their serial numbers. Fortunately, it’s pretty simple. They put the date in the first four numbers of the serial number. They always do so in an MMYY format meaning the first two numbers are the month the water heater was made, and the second two number numbers are the year it was made. For example, if you have a water heater whose serial number begins with 0110 that water heater was manufactured in January of 2010. Uh oh, if that’s a tank heater, it looks like it’s almost time to replace it!

Replace Your Water Heater Before It’s Too Late

If your water heater is close to the end of its lifespan, it’s likely a good idea to just get it replaced. As we mentioned earlier, sediment buildup actually reduces the efficiency of your water heater. That means that to heat the same amount of water, you’ll be paying more in energy bills the older and less efficient your water heater is. It’s a good idea to keep your water heater healthy so you don’t start accruing higher monthly expenses than you’re used to.

Another reason you’ll want to replace your water heater before it’s too late is that you won’t have to deal with going without hot water or worse, a leak causing damage to your home or belongings.

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