Various factors affect the lifespan of a water heater – These include:
- The quality of water
- The temperature of water
- And maintenance of the unit
This will typically give you between 8 and 12 years lifespan.
It’s not wise to wait for a heater unit to break down before it is replaced, as many people do, because so much damage can occur before a unit ultimately break down.
Being aware of the signs of imminent breakdown can help save costs and property by tracking unit replacement prior to an emergency.
Water Heater Replacement: Leakages
This is considered as the most evident thing to watch for. You may observe a pool of water right below the unit.
Sometimes, this pool may get dried up quickly, and leave deposits round the unit.
In some cases, you may only be able to notice corrosion telling you that there’s something wrong.
Upon noticing any one of these signs, you need to carry out further investigation.
Try to detect where the leakage is coming from – at times it may be somewhere on the fittings along the line other than the heater.
If you cannot find the leakage source, then contact a plumber.
Note: The function of the T&P (temperature and pressure relief) valve is to free up stress on the tank of the water heater resulting from water temperatures above 210°F and pressures higher than 150 psi.
A large volume of water is carried by these valves, so they can leak.
You may not be worried if this doesn’t occur frequently, since it’s only the valve performing its function.
If constant leakage is noticed from the T&P valve, you should test the hot water temperature from the closest tap or heater outlet valve.
If the thermometer reading is oddly high (210°F or higher), you may need a thermostat replacement.
Your water system pressure can be tested by connecting a pressure gauge to a close faucet or hose bibb.
If you have pressure reading over 80 psi, then you should install an expansion tank and pressure-dropping valve.
For normal temperature and pressure readings, you should replace the T&P valve.
Related content: Understanding Relief Valves
Water Heater Replacement: Noise
Too much noise coming from the water heater could also be an indication that it’s about to experience a breakdown.
As water is heated, mineral crystals and other solids contained in it separate and settle down – around the lower element in an electric heater, and on top of the burner in a gas heater.
When there is no frequent tank flushing, these deposits will gather and lower the quantity of available hot water and the heat reaching the water.
In order to balance this, the heater will run more frequently, ultimately damaging both tank and burner.
If you hear banging, popping, or rumbling from the heater, then you need to have it flushed.
If after flushing you still hear all of these, then you may just need a replacement heater unit.
Buildup of sediments in water heater units is worsened by hard water.
Be watchful of hard water and test your water for high mineral content if you are suspicious.
If it is confirmed that you have hard water, then you really should consider a water softener.
This one addition can help preserve your water heater and reduce other fixture-related issues.
Related content: Water Softener Installation
Water Heater Replacement: Abnormal Odor/Color
If you notice that your hot water is rusty, cloudy, or has a metallic odor, then the water heater may be giving up.
Excess buildup of sediments is indicated by cloudiness of your hot water.
A rusty odor or color is an indication that the sacrificial anode rod is done or the tank’s glass lining is compromised, and thus the tank’s underlying steel is being corroded and the unit needs to be replaced.
If a rusty color or odor is noticed on both your hot and cold water, then it is likely that the water supply contains surplus iron.
This mostly occurs with well water, but can also result from corroding, old steel or iron plumbing with public supplies.
Ensure that well water is tested, and you can contact water suppliers for a report on water quality assessment.
Water Heater Replacement: High Energy Bills
In the first place, many older water heater units were not as efficient as newer models; age, in addition to poor maintenance, simple worsens it.
A substantial part of the energy costs of a home (an average of about 20%) is consumed by water heaters.
However, you can save a good amount by replacing those inefficient old units with a much newer one.
Based on your conditions, an economical solution can be provided with the use of a Rinnai tankless water heater installation.
Repair, or Replace?
Water heaters may have some common problems prompting you to get a replacement, meanwhile all you need is repairs:
As previously mentioned, a reduction in the volume of available hot water may result from sediment buildup, which in most cases can be flushed out.
When the water isn’t as hot as it normally should, then it means the heating element or thermostat have been damaged and can be replaced.
Burn marks or soot on the heater unit is a sign of issues with the venting or flue pipe.
These situations are very risky and require immediate attention.
In the same way, a draft hood which is melted and/or too much corrosion or condensation on top of the unit is also indicative of back-drafting from the venting of the heater.
You need to get this fixed.
If you notice orange (rather than blue) flames at the burner, this may result from debris or dust which in most cases burn off eventually.
If it continues, then you can clean or replace the burner.
A yellow flame, on the other hand, is a sign of lack of air to the burner and should be looked into by an expert.
Last Tip: Take time out to carefully inspect your water heater unit, burner flame and related piping thoroughly every 6 months, as you stand a great chance of detecting any issues on time.
Check out our article on water heater maintenance.