While the typical water heater has a lifespan of about 8 to12 years, careful consideration of the factors that pertain to its lifespan can provide the home inspector and the homeowner with information about the potential costs that would be incurred by replacing the water heater. These factors include: correct installation; usage volume; construction quality; and maintenance.
Gas water heaters should be installed in well-ventilated areas — not just for fire safety requirements and carbon monoxide buildup, but also because poor ventilation can shorten the lifespan of the water heater. A water heater should not be placed in an area susceptible to flood damage. Water can rust out the exterior and pipes, decreasing the life expectancy and efficiency of the unit. A water heater is best placed in an easily accessible area for maintenance. It should also be readily visible for fire and health-hazard requirements.
You may wish to confirm using receipts as to whether the water heater was installed professionally. Homeowners may install their own units to save money, but the installation of a water heater requires more skill than the average DIY task.
The life expectancy of the water heater depends a great deal on the volume of water used. Using large quantities of water means that the water heater will have to work harder to heat the water. In addition, the greater the volume of water, the greater the corrosive effect of the water will be.
Construction Quality of the Water Heater
As with most household systems and components, you get what you pay for in a water heater. Cheaper models will generally have a shorter lifespan, while more expensive models will generally last longer. A good indication of a water heater’s construction quality is its warranty. Longer warranties naturally imply sounder construction. In the course of a Consumer Report evaluation that deconstructed 18 different models of water heaters, it was determined that models with longer warranties invariably were of superior manufacturing quality, with nine- and 12-year models typically having larger or higher-wattage heating elements, as well as thicker insulation. Models with larger heating elements have a much better resistance to mineral buildup and failure.
Pay attention to the model’s features. Some models come with a self-cleaning feature that flushes the pipes of mineral deposits, which is an important consideration in the unit’s lifespan. Models with larger or thicker anodes are better-equipped to fight corrosion.
Maintenance and Parts Replacement
The hardness of the water is another consideration when looking at estimating the lifespan of a water heater. In areas like Arizona where there is a higher mineral content to the water, water heaters have shorter lifespans than in other areas, as mineral buildup reduces the units’ efficiency and durability. Even in areas where the water is softer, however, some mineral deposition is bound to occur. A way to counteract this mineral buildup is to periodically flush the water heater. High-end models typically come equipped with a self-flushing feature. In models for which manual flushing is required, it is important not to damage the water heater valve, which is usually made of plastic and is easy to break.
In summary, there is a variety of factors influencing the lifespan of a water heater. Beyond the basic telltale signs, such as a leaky puddle under the heater or cold showers in the morning, the homeowner should consider the age and warranty of the model, and carefully weigh the cost-benefit of repairing an existing water heater versus buying a new one as it gets older.
Thank you for reading my BLOG, I look forward to connecting with you soon!
– Aaron Marjala
Tri County Home Inspection, LLC