How often should a water heater be replaced?

close-up of technician working on a water heater

Do you need to inspect your water heater?

There are a few things every homeowner should inspect as part of a monthly routine. These include the HVAC filter, the smoke alarm batteries, and the roof. With a visual inspection, you can usually tell if any of these things need professional service or something as simple as a battery change. So what about a water heater inspection

Yes, a water heater inspection should be on that monthly list. But what is a water heater inspection? Water heaters are typically reliable appliances, sitting in a closet and quietly doing their job. However, this is why you need to check it out every 30 days. As a homeowner, a list of things to check during your water heater inspection include: 

Test the TPR Valve

  • Turn the cold-water supply and electrical power off.
  • Position a bucket under the TPR valve, typically located on the side or the top of the tank. 
  • Lift the tab on the valve to release some water out. If the water doesn’t stop flowing after shutting the valve, drain the tank some more using a pipe wrench, remove the old valve, and install a new TPR valve. 

Check the Anode Rod

  • Connect a hose to the drain cock on the tank and release two to three gallons of water.
  • Now, fit a 1 and 1/16 inch socket on the hex head, located on top or under the top plate, and unscrew the rod. If there is any calcium coating the rod, replace it. Use Teflon tape before inserting it into the tank and then tighten.  

Drain the Tank and Remove Sediment

  • Drain any water remaining in the tank into a bucket. Open the cold-water valve to stir up any sediment on the bottom of the tank. Drain that water and repeat the process until the water is coming out clear.
  • Shut the drain cock, refill the tank, and turn the power back on.

Check the Drain Pan

  • Clean any water and gunk from the drain pain using a shop vac.

How often should a water heater be inspected?

In addition to taking care of the things described above monthly, will need a professional electric or gas-powered water heater inspection every two years. However, when a water heater is about eight years old, an annual professional water heater inspection is recommended. 

Who does water heater inspection?

You can and should do your own water heater inspection every 30 days, as mentioned. However, for a professional water heater inspection, call a licensed plumber. They have the skills and equipment to handle most tasks associated with the hot water heater. If there are any electrical issues that need to be taken care of and that are beyond their capabilities, they will have an electrician assist . Examples of when help from an electrician may be needed include problems with circuit breakers or wiring. 

How long will a water heater last?

The lifespan of a water heater is dependent on a few factors: 

  • The quality of the water heater
  • Your water quality
  • Whether a water heater has had routine maintenance and water heater inspections

Both electric and gas water heaters can last between eight and 12 years. However, some have been known to last up to 20 years, though this is in rare circumstances, such as when a water heater is located in a home where the owner is often away.

What are the signs of a water heater going bad?

There are seven common indicators that your water heater is about to call it quits, probably without any notice other than the following signs: 

  • Insufficient Hot Water

If you run out of hot water while showering, check the temperature setting. Move it five degrees higher and wait 30 minutes. If the water still isn’t getting heated, check the circuit breaker. If it has tripped, reset it. If you still aren’t getting enough hot water after this is done, it is time to have a professional water heater inspection. 

  • Varying Temperature

Fluctuating water temperature could be a sign of a failing thermostat. However, it could also be a sign your water heater isn’t the right size for what your home needs. A professional water heater inspection can determine the problem and advise on whether you need a replacement unit. 

  • Water Heater Leaks

When the water heater is leaking, it’s time to take immediate action. Start with turning off the water and electrical or gas power. Then, do your own water heater inspection to see if you can tell where the leak is coming from. If it is from the TPR or drain valve, you can typically replace the water heater part and stop the leak. If it is coming from the tank itself, you may need to replace your water heater. 

  • Reduced Water Flow

If the water flow pressure has dropped, it could be because of buildup of sediment in the bottom of the tank. Try to flush the unit, and if that doesn’t fix it, it is likely time for a new water heater. 

  • Concerning Noises

When you’re hearing odd and unusual noises coming from the water heater, like banging, boiling, cracking, gurgling, popping, or whining, that could be a sign it is time to replace the unit. 

  • Discolored or Smelly Water

If water coming from your faucets that is dirty, red in color, or smelling like rotten eggs, there is likely bacteria and rust in the tank. This could be fixed by replacing the anode rod and flushing the tank. If that doesn’t help, it is time for a new water heater. 

Should I replace my water heater before it fails?

If you want to prevent having a cold shower some morning, yes. It is also easier on the plumbing and your appliances to replace it before it fails, and that’s not to mention the benefits of cleaner and healthier water. 

What water heater do I need?

With a professional water heater inspection by a plumber, you can get help determining what water heater is best for your household.  Suggested sizes are: 

  • Up to 2 people: 30-to-40-gallon water heater tank
  • Two to 3 people: 40-to-50-gallon water tank
  • Three to 4 people: 50-to-60-gallon water tank
  • Five or more people: 60-to-80-gallon water tank.
close-up of shower faucet

In Closing – Can a water heater explode?

It is rare but possible. Anything that is under pressure like a water heater tank has the chance of too much pressure building up and leading to an explosion. With a gas-powered water heater, an already dangerous issue such as a gas leak can cause a water heater explosion.  This is just one of the many reasons why water heater inspections are so important.