How long do water heaters last?

Your water heater is an important part of your home. Without it, there’s no laundry or dishes getting done, and those early morning showers in the winter become a lot more miserable. If your water heater is nearing the end of its lifespan, you’ll want to be the first one to know—both so that you can make plans to replace it, and so you can do so without causing a major disruption to life in your home.

Just like everything else in your home, your water heater won’t last forever. However, just how long it’ll last ultimately comes down to what kind of water heater you have and how well it has been maintained throughout the years.

In this article, we’ll break down what impacts your water heater lifespan and why you should have the professionals at Wagner handle your annual maintenance.

Standard Water Heaters

You’ll find standard water heaters in most homes. What you’re probably picturing is what most people associate with the phrase “water heaters.” They have a tank that stores heated water until it’s ready for use at the tap, shower head, or dishwasher. For decades, these water heaters have been the standard for homes.

Standard water heaters are a relatively short-lived appliance. On average, most water heaters last about 10-13 years. With the right maintenance and care, it’s possible to extend their lifespan, but there are upper limits, mainly because the water heater tank itself is subjected to unique forms of stress.

The combination of water and metal means corrosion is a matter of when, not if. To delay corrosion, standard water heaters have a sacrificial anode rod inserted into them. This rod attracts corrosive material away from the tank walls. However, once it has been corroded away, your water heater is vulnerable. The proverbial clock has started ticking on your water heater tank lifespan.

Heating water inside the tank produces pressure. Under normal circumstances, the walls of your water heater tank are designed to contain this pressure. However, if they start to corrode, you could start to see small leaks or fractures in the tank shell. That’s as good a sign as any that it’s time to replace your water heater.

Tankless Water Heaters

True to their name, tankless water heaters do not use a tank to store heated water. Instead, they heat water as needed. When you turn on the shower head in your bathroom, tap water is sent through the wall-mounted tankless unit. As it travels through it, that water is rapidly heated to the right temperature. Read more on how tankless water heaters work.

With no tank and a lower risk of long-term corrosion, tankless water heaters can last twice as long as standard water heaters: about 20-25 years, on average. However, there’s a notable trade-off to consider: most tankless systems are more expensive than standard water heaters, which means you’ll end up paying more upfront on the initial purchase.

Related Article: How much does a new water heater cost?

If you’re interested in a tankless water heater and want to know more about how installing one can help you save money, talk to our plumbers. A tankless water heater’s lifespan is a major game-changer for homeowners.

Gas Versus Electric Water Heaters

Both standard and tankless water heaters are available in gas and electric configurations. If your home already has a natural gas connection, it might make sense to go with a gas-powered water heater. On the other hand, if your home doesn’t already have a gas line, an electric water heater is probably the best bet.

The lifespan difference between gas and electric water heaters is mostly negligible. Both types of standard water heaters last about 10-13 years, while both types of tankless water heaters last about 20-25 years.

If you’re trying to decide between a gas or electric water heater, you should focus on what your long-term energy costs will be. Natural gas is less expensive than electricity, which can make running a natural gas water heater less costly in the long run. However, installing a natural gas line—if your home doesn’t already have one—can be pricey.

Consult with one of our local plumbers to see what the math looks like for your home.

Debunking common water heater myths

In the video below, the team from This Old House breaks down the truth behind several common water heater myths.

Maintain your water heater

Every year you can squeeze out of your current water heater is another year you don’t have to purchase a new one. Routine maintenance is the key to extending the lifespan of your standard water heater. Your water heater should be drained, flushed, and otherwise maintained at least once annually to prevent the buildup of sediment and corrosion.

In addition, having one of our plumbers replace the anode rod midway through the water heater’s life may add several years to the system’s lifespan. You should have one of our plumbers assist you with this: partially corroded anode rods are extremely brittle, and attempting to remove and replace the rod yourself could result in it shattering, sending pieces into your water heater.

As part of our water heater maintenance, we’ll want to check that the pressure-relief valve is working properly. Under normal circumstances, when there’s too much pressure in the tank, this valve opens to release some air and water, leveling off that pressure. However, as time passes and your water heater gets older, this valve can get stuck in place due to corrosive buildup. If that happens, the pressure in your water heater will continue to build, putting more pressure on the already-stressed tank walls.

Replacing your water heater

If you do need to replace your aging water heater, you should take a look at our water heater guide. It’ll walk you through everything you need to know about selecting the right water heater, from deciding between standard and tankless to figuring out which size of system is right for your home.

Talk to our plumbers

Wagner is Albuquerque’s trusted name in plumbing—and water heaters. We’ve been helping local homeowners fix, maintain, and replace their water heaters for decades. Our plumbers know everything there is to know about standard and tankless water heaters. We’d be happy to help you learn more about your system, how many years you can expect to get out of it, and—of course—how you can best extend its lifespan.

Ready to consult with Albuquerque’s water heater experts? Contact us today and let us know how we can assist you. Whether you have a question, like “How long do water heaters last?” or you need fast service, we’re ready to help.