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How do I know when I need to replace my hot water heater?

Updated: Nov 23


Let’s just come out and say it: Your hot water heater will not last forever. On average, most electric hot water heaters last 8-10 years and gas heaters last 6-8 years, but it’s not always easy to know when it’s time to replace the unit.

Wouldn’t it be convenient if you got an alert on your phone saying “Hi, this is your hot water heater. I know you don’t really want to hear this, but you should replace me in the next month”?

Sometimes things aren’t quite that easy, but there are some telltale signs for when you to need to replace your hot water heater.

Leaks

A leaky hot water heater can cause major water damage to your house (depending on where it’s located). If you see a puddle of water around your water heater, you need to get it looked at right away. Leaks are usually the result of pressure buildup inside the tank. Over the years, your tank will experience thousands of heating cycles that can eventually lead to micro fractures and leaks.

Some leaks may be caused by connections and fittings on your hot water tank. Such issues may be able to be adjusted and repaired, but if the fittings and connections don’t show signs of leaks then your tank itself is the most likely culprit. Contact a trusted professional at Ashley Heating, Water & Air immediately if you notice a leak.

Higher utility bills

Sometimes you won’t know there’s an issue until you start seeing higher utility bills. If your hot water heater is using extra energy to provide the same amount of hot water, it’s a clear indication that you have an issue on your hands.

No hot water

If you are getting little or no hot water, something is not working properly. It may be as simple as replacing an old heating element or thermostat. If your hot water heater is less than 5 years old, it might make sense to make the repairs. If your hot water heater is closer to 6-10 years old, you’ll need to decide if it’s more cost effective to replace the unit than make repairs. If the issue goes beyond a heating element or thermostat, the system might be at its end-of-life and need to be replaced.

Loud noises

Hot water heaters sometimes make loud knocking or gurgling noises from sediment in the tank. Sediment buildup in the tank and/or heating element forces the heater to consume more energy and can cause the tank’s metal to become more brittle.

Flushing the system every year removes sediment deposits, and the water heater is more likely to last its full life expectancy. Make sure you follow instructions closely when flushing your tank (or have a licensed professional do it). If you routinely flush your system and it still makes noises, it’s likely on the verge of a leak and should be replaced soon.

Rusty water

Rusty, discolored water or water with a metallic odor is a sign that something is not right. In some cases, it may simply mean the anode rod in your hot water heater is rusting and needs to be replaced. It may mean the tank itself is corroding and rusting – a clear indication the entire tank needs to be replaced. Or it might mean your home has rusty pipes.

To simplest way to determine if the rusty water is from your water heater or from your pipes is to drain about 4 large buckets of water from the water heater. If the water is still rusty by the 4th bucket, it’s a problem with your heater and not your pipes.

Cloudy water

Cloudy water may mean you have a sediment buildup in your water heater. If so, see the “Loud noises” section above.

Final thoughts

Not every issue with your hot water heater means it needs to be replaced. You may be able to repair the unit if:

  • A replaceable part is failing

  • The unit has not yet reached its life expectancy

You should consider replacing your water heater if:

  • The unit has reached its life expectancy

  • It has not been properly maintained

  • It’s showing signs of wear (see above)

Time for a new hot water heater? Check out these tank and tankless options

Ashley proudly offers American Standard residential gas and electric water heaters in a variety of sizes. If you prefer a tankless option, we also offer Rinnai tankless water heaters, the number one brand in North America.


Installing a hot water heater

If you have water heater questions, need repair service, or are wondering about water heater installation, call the pros at 208-378-9445.


Leave the work and worry up to Ashley, and we’ll provide a rewarding start-to-finish experience.

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