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When to Replace a Water Heater


A water heater is not always cheap to replace. But the right time to replace a water heater is, simply put, before it breaks. Of course, no one has a crystal ball to tell you exactly when it is going to break. Instead, we can help you notice some signs that your water heater may be on its way out. Replacing it when you notice these signs is a good way to avoid a disaster when your water heater bursts.

Check the Age of Your Water Heater

Like many parts of your home, your water heater has an expected lifespan. A good rule of thumb is that most water heaters are only build to last about 10 years. Past 10 years you are really rolling the dice. If there is anything near your water heater that could be damaged by water, you are taking a big chance. Ideally, you should replace your water heater before you hit the 10-year mark.

To know when to replace your water heater, you will need to determine its age. If you bought it yourself, you might have a pretty good idea of how old it is. When you replace it, put a sticker on the new water heater with the manufacture date clearly noted. If the water heater came with the house, you might not know how old the water heater is. Of course, if it’s been more than 10 years since you moved in, you certainly should replace the water heater. But if you want to be more proactive, you can find that date in the water heater’s serial number.

Unfortunately, manufacturers do not always make it simple to decode the serial number. Generally, the year and month of manufacture are listed, but not always in a  simple month/year notation. Instead, some manufacturers use letters to represent years or months, and the order may be different. Some manufacturers forgo the month altogether and instead list the week of the year (i.e., a number from 1 to 52). The best way to decode the serial number is to visit the website of the manufacturer for information.

Rust in the Water

Another sign that your water heater is nearing the end of its life is rust in the water. If the inside of the water heater is corroding, it needs to be replaced even if it has been less than 10 years. If you notice the hot water in your house running slightly brown or smelling bad, that may be a sign of rust. Replace the water heater as soon as you see that. Don’t wait for it to burst and flood your closet or basement.

Strange Noises

As your water heater ages, you may begin to hear some strange noises when you turn on the hot water. Usually, it will sound like a rumble or banging noise. What you are hearing is hardened sediment banging around and hitting the inside of the water heater. As your water heater ages, sediment can build up inside and settle to the bottom. Over time, the sediment is repeatedly heated, and eventually, the sediment will harden. That hardened sediment is what is causing the noise.

Hardened sediment is harmful to your water heater for a few reasons. First, it makes the water heater less efficient, resulting in higher utility bills. Second, because it is less efficient, it takes more sustained heat to get your water to the temperature you want. More heat means more wear. As the water heater works harder and longer, tiny holes and cracks can develop. Of course, the hardened sediment knocking around is also not good for the water heater’s structural integrity.

If you hear rumbling and banging noises coming from your heater, it’s time to start watching it carefully. Keep an eye out for any new leaks. If you see a leak, it’s time to replace your water heater before it fails completely. If you want to be safe, you can replace the water heater as soon as it starts making noise and avoid leaks and potential worse damage.


This one should be pretty obvious. If your water heater is leaking, get a new one. Due to the expense of replacing a water heater, many homeowners try to delay the inevitable. They may rationalize that a small leak can be contained and isn’t that much of a problem. However, they are overlooking the real problem. While you may be able to contain the leaks, they are a sign of something much worse. Your water heater is starting to fall apart. Now is a great time to replace it before the leaks turn into a complete burst.

The only caveat to the leaks issue is that not all water around the water heater is necessarily from a crack or hole in the heater. Water can leak from loose fittings or connections to the water heater. You can also check to make sure that no water is leaking from the temperature/pressure overflow pipe. If the leak is coming from one of those spots, you can usually get by with repairs instead of replacement. However, if the water heater is nearing its 10-year life expectancy, it may be worth replacing it anyway.

Water Heater Repair and Replacement

If you’re ready to replace your water heater, or just need some repairs, we have some great TrustDALE certified water heater experts to recommend. Some repairs and even replacement may look like just for a do-it-yourselfer. Just realize that there is very little margin of error with a water heater. If you get it wrong, you can flood your basement or closet, causing thousands of dollars of damage. That’s why we recommend always using a professional for water heater maintenance, repair, and replacement