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How Long Do Water Heaters Last on Average?


How Long Do Water Heaters Last

Winter is coming! Several areas of the country have already experienced their first accumulating snowfalls. The chill in the air may invigorate you, but that doesn’t mean you want to take chilly showers or wash dishes in ice-cold water.

Is your water heater showing signs it’s about to stop working? Maybe you’ve noticed rust-colored water at the taps, or it’s taking longer to get hot water. Water heaters often make loud noises as a warning of imminent failure.

Even if you don’t detect any tell-tale signs, it’s good to know something about the water heater’s lifespan. How long do water heaters last? We answer that question in today’s post.

Before you dip any further into information about your water heater’s expected service life, take a brief look at what’s inside the tank.

The Inner Workings of Water Heaters

You might think of your water heater in terms of what it looks like from the outside. You see a tank and not much else, right?

Not so fast! What you see isn’t the tank—you’re looking at a protective shell. Between the tank and shell, you’ll find a layer of insulation.

Then, there are several valves, including the shutoff, drain, and pressure relief valve. Other components of your water heater include:

  • Thermostat
  • Anode Rod
  • Dip Tube
  • Discharge Tube

You’ll also see a series of copper pipes. They serve as water supply lines, carrying hot and cold water to sinks, tubs, showers, and water-using appliances.

Don’t forget the heating mechanism—where would you be without it?

A gas water heater uses a burner sitting under the tank and a chimney placed on top. Electric water heaters have a heating element.

Any one of these components can go bad, resulting in the need to either repair or replace your water heater.

When Hot Water Service Comes to a Halt

Even though water heater manufacturers design their products to satisfy a household’s demands for many years, over time, parts will wear out. You may or may not notice warning signs your water heater is ready to break down.

If the water heater displays any of the following behaviors, prepare for repair! These are the most common clues you have a water heater going out:

  • Water turns lukewarm in the middle of your shower.
  • Popping, sizzling, or rumbling sounds.
  • Puddles of water near the water heater.

Each of the clues here points to a specific problem. Sketchy hot water service often indicates a worn-out thermostat or dip tube. A faulty valve, sediment at the bottom of the tank, or a leak may cause unusual noises.

Does the Climate in Tacoma Impact Your Water Heater?

We get a lot of rain here in Tacoma, and our summers are warm and dry. Even if we had excessive humidity or cold, it wouldn’t affect your water heater’s useful life.

What does impact your water heater is water quality! Hard water coming into your water heater may cause sediment buildup. If you don’t flush out the sediment, the inside of the tank will rust.

The minerals in hard water have a negative impact on the inner workings of your water heater. How your appliance reacts to mineral buildup depends on whether you have a gas or electric model.


Gas water heaters use a burner located on the bottom of the tank. Hard water minerals form a scaly buildup, which interferes with the burner’s ability to heat the water and keep it at the correct temperature.


In the electric water heater, you’ll see the mineral buildup on the heating element. You’ll notice your water heater doesn’t work as efficiently as it should.

Maybe you don’t have hard water. You’ll still want to know when to replace the water heater.

How Long Do Hot Water Heaters Last with TLC?

When you don’t have hard water, you earn several longevity points. Provide a little TLC, and it should give you several years of service in return.

You already know the average lifespan of a water heater is anywhere from 8-12 years. What if your all-star appliance has already passed the 15 or 20-year milestone?

The extra attention may give you more than the average number of service years from your tank water heater. How often should a water heater be replaced when you take good care of it?

Before you worry about a total replacement, calculate the age of your appliance. When it reaches around 4-6 years of age, keep an eye out for performance issues and other signs your water heater needs repair.

Next, we’ll share the best action you can take to extend the service life of your water heater.

Your Water Deserves the Good Life

It’s unlikely your water heater will outlive you, but you can still maximize its useful life. In some cases, you can even extend its life beyond the expected lifespan.

Keep giving it that TLC by scheduling routine maintenance with your plumbing specialist. Continue inspecting it yourself for visible signs of wear and tear or leaking. When the plumber comes for your yearly maintenance visit, they’ll do an even more thorough inspection.

Draining 1-2 gallons of water from the tank is an easy maintenance task. If you see dirt or debris in the bucket, you need a complete cleaning. Your plumber can do the job for you!

If you discover that you have hard water, think about installing a water softener. You can reduce the mineral buildup inside the tank and help prevent damage. You may also need to replace fixtures if they have too much mineral buildup!

Need to Schedule Water Heater Service?

Now that we’ve addressed your questions about how long do water heaters last, you can take steps to get the most out of your appliance. Take care of routine maintenance and schedule yearly inspections and service with your plumbing professional.

Whether you have a newer water model or your water heater is nearing the end of its service life, our team can help determine whether you should repair or replace your unit. Contact us today and schedule your service!

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