How long a water heater lasts depends on several features and there is a difference between the electric and gas types. If you have a gas water heater there is a chance that it won’t last as long as an electric model but there are pros and cons to both options.
The best tankless water heaters have a similar lifespan, regardless of its fuel source. Tankless models also have many other advantages as you can find in our EcoSmart Eco 27 tankless water heater review.
So, How Long Does an Electric Water Heater Last?
In reality, you won’t know how long it lasts until your unit stops working but there is a common mistake that people make. In many cases, a faulty water heater is fixable with the only exception being a leaking water heater.
So, before deeming your current unit as a lost cause, read up on the possible causes of why it is not working properly. If you really do need a replacement, here are the specs to look for in a long-lasting water heater.
The best quality water heaters should last anywhere between 8 – 15 years. However, poor design or low-quality materials cut down this lifespan by half or even more.
Consumer reviews give you some insight into the product lifespan but keep in mind that a top-quality water heater lasts well over a decade. Can you really expect to read a customer review about a water heater bought 10 years ago?
In other words, consumer reviews are a better indicator of bad options than good options. So, what is a better indicator of how long the unit will last?
A smart tactic is choosing the water heater with the best warranty, one that includes repairs and spare part replacement. The longer the warranty, the more likely the unit will last the desired 8 – 15 years.
If the warranty is for 10 years, you can expect the unit to last at least that long. This also means that a model with a short warranty of 2 – 5 years won’t survive much.
Factors Affecting Water Heater Life Cycle
Besides the warranty, there are a few more product features that give you an idea of how it will do its job. There are also factors not directly related to the product design itself that affects the unit’s lifespan.
Gas vs Electric
On average, an electric water heater outlives a gas water heater by a couple of years. However, the quality of each model type still plays a big role – a cheaply built electric model might not beat a high-quality gas model.
Tankless vs Tank Water Heaters
The reason why many water heaters have such a long warranty is that most issues with them can be resolved. The main water heater problem that cannot be fixed is a leak in the tank.
Since tankless water heaters are not at risk of that problem, they generally last longer. Certain tankless models might even last several decades.
High sediment levels in the groundwater is one of the killing factors for water heaters with a tank. Sediment build-up, in both gas and electric types, causes corrosion of the internal parts.
This is yet another reason why tankless models last longer. In a water heater tank, as sediment build-up increases, the higher the chance of a leak.
Households in areas with hard water, which is most of the USA, must perform regular maintenance on their unit to flush out the sediment. This will help prolong the lifespan.
Corrosion is a problem for any water heater because there is a constant flow of water through the unit. More advanced models might have design elements that help prevent corrosion and they are a good feature to look out for.
An example of a corrosion-resistant design element is self-cleaning pipes. In electric models look for bigger anodes and in a water tank look for models with an extra porcelain layer on the inside.
Choosing the right size water heater is very important, not only for its performance but also for how long the water heater will last. Therefore, pay close attention to the maximum temperature and flow rate information of the product.
Installing a unit that is too small means that a greater strain is put on the machine to meet the usage demand. Like with any machine that is overworked, the wear and tear is sped up and the unit might break down prematurely.
Having a specialist install your new water heater is a smart choice for any homeowner. This is because poor installation methods can damage the unit and more importantly, can pose a serious hazard.
The rule of thumb is that a water heater should be installed in a cool and dry space with proper ventilation. The unit should also remain accessible so that regular maintenance is easier to do.
A professional will have a better knowledge of the mechanics and the aspects affecting its performance which only does you a favor. Plus, certain manufacturers work in professional installation as a warranty requirement so you want to meet this condition – don’t risk missing out on the warranty services.
When to Replace a Water Heater
We already emphasized that a leaking unit needs to be replaced asap because there is no fixing them. In addition to a leak, there are 3 more good reasons to replace a water heater.
The first is its age. If your unit has passed the 10-year mark, congratulations but it is probably time for a new one.
Signs of rust, rusty water, and unusual noises are a sign of an imminent leak so replace it before the dam bursts. Finally, poorer performance like lower maximum temperatures also indicates that it has reached its limit.
Be smart – choose a water heater with a long warranty and don’t forget maintenance.