Water Heater Replacement: When to Replace Your Water Heater

5 Clues Your Water Heater Needs to be Replaced

Like any appliance, water heaters break down over time and need to be replaced. No one enjoys taking a cold shower, so ideally, you'd like to be able to replace your water heater before it completely stops working.  

If you wait too long, it could lead to a much larger problem. Such as, large leaks and water damage to your home. So how do you know when it's time for a replacement? This article will show you 5 clues to know when it's time to replace your water heater.

5 Clues When to Replace a Water Heater

Clue #1: Age

The older the water heater, the more likely it is to break down. As a general rule, a tank style water heater will last, on average, 8 to 12 years. 

With proper maintenance, installing a Aqua-Pure Hot Water Filter, and a little luck, you may be able to nearly double the lifespan of your water heater. However, sometimes, even with the best care, a water heater will need to be replaced after only a few years.

If your water heater is pushing the 10-year mark, there's a good chance it's time to replace the unit, and you may want to consider a tankless model. Tankless units have a considerably longer lifespan and are far more energy efficient. 

Clue #2: Rust and Corrosion

Check your tank for rust or corrosion. Most hot water tanks are made out of steel and will eventually rust. You may even notice rust in your hot water as it's drawn from the tap. 

If you find rust or corrosion by the temperature and pressure relief valve, and/or the water inlet and outlet connections, it's a good indication that your tank is rusting and needs to be replaced. 

Unfortunately, there's not a way to repair a tank once it starts to rust and corrode. If your water heater has not started to leak, it will only be a matter of time. 

Where your water heater is located within your home may determine your next step. Leaking water can cause thousands of dollars of damage to your home. Your best option may be to replace your water right away to prevent unnecessary expenses and damage. Or, you may want to consider installing a water sensor alarm to alert you of future leakage. 

Glentronics, Inc. BWD-HWA Basement Watchdog Water Sensor and Alarm
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If your tank is located in a garage, you may choose to wait until it begins to leak. The water damage will likely be minimal, and on a solid cement floor it should be relatively easy to clean.

Clue #3: Drain Valve Does Not Drain Water

Over time, sediment builds and settles inside the bottom of the water heater's tank. If you have a gas water heater, you may have noticed a popping sound when the burner ignites.

However, regardless of the fuel source, sediment build-up is a problem for both electric and gas water heaters. As it accumulates, it can clog the drain valve, and over time, it will even break down the interior of the steel tank. 

Flushing your water heater once a year will remove the sediment and help prevent damage to the tank, as well as extend the life of your water heater.

You may be able to unclog the drain valve by following these steps. However, there's always the possiblity that the sediment build-up may have reached a point where the tank can no longer be drained.

Rheem SP12112G Brass Drain Valve
Rheem - Tools & Home Improvement

It should be noted that in severe cases, leaks can develop when the sediment is agitated during the draining process. We recommend calling a professional plumber to assist you. In the end, there's always a good chance that it'll be necessary to replace your water heater.

Clue #4: The Hot Water Tank is Leaking

A leak from the hot water tank is usually caused by an internal problem and is rarely repairable. Follow these steps to see if you can determine where the leak is originating.

If you find the leak is coming from the tank itself, you'll most likely need to replace your water heater.

To prevent further water damage, turn OFF both the water and power to the water heater. Then call a professional plumber to install a new unit. If you're a do-it-yourself kind of person, these articles will give you step-by-step directions: 

Clue #5: Water is Luke Warm or Cold

Something is clearly wrong if you find your water isn't as hot as it once was, or worse, it isn't hot at all. There may be a problem with the heating element, or the electric thermostat. It's not uncommon for these parts to fail entirely or simply malfunction over time.

Another possible cause is a broken dip tube. The dip tube is a plastic pipe that runs from the cold water inlet to the bottom of the tank. If it's broken, the outgoing hot water will be diluted by the incoming cold water. The result is cooler than desired hot water.  

It could also be something as simple as your hot water requirements have increased. If this is the case, your water heater may be working fine, but isn't able to meet the household demand for hot water. In which case, you may want to consider purchasing a new water heater with a larger tank or going tankless. 

Water Heater Replacement


If you determine that your water heater can be repaired, you may be able to do the work yourself. However, if you choose to hire a professional plumber, ask him the following questions:

  1. The cost of the necessary repair.
  2. In his opinion, what is the life expectancy of the hot water heater after the repairs are completed.
  3. The cost of a new water heater (including labor).
  • Click HERE to read our detailed article on how to hire a plumber.

With this information, you'll be able to decide if it's worth your time and money to repair the unit. Sometimes, even if a water heater is repairable, the best decision, in the long-run, is to purchase a new one. 


If you determine that you need to replace your water heater, you should consider the following:

  • Will you replace your system with the same type? If you've been considering switching to a tankless water heater, this might be a good time. 
  • Did the tank size of your old water heater meet your current household needs? If not, you may want to purchase a larger tank.
  • Will you hire a plumber or install the water heater yourself? If you do it yourself you'll need to dispose of your water heater.

Buyer Guide Resource

Remember, the better you take care of your water heater, the longer your water heater will last. Performing regular water heater maintenance will not only extend the life of your water heater, but it will also save you money!

If you need to buy a new water heater, these buyer guides will help you make an informed decision:

Last update on 2019-02-21 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API