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Your hot water heater is one of the most significant elements of your home plumbing system. It ensures you can regulate the temperature of your water at all times, enjoying hot showers as well as warm water for doing laundry or cleaning dishes. Naturally, all homeowners want to keep their water heater up and running for as long as possible; and to replace it as needed.

But exactly how long does the average hot water heater last? That’s an important question to consider before you invest in repairing a faulty unit, as it’s typically not worth making a major investment in fixing a heater that’s on its last legs. It’s also important as you plan ahead for upcoming household expenses; certainly, once your unit reaches a certain age, it’s wise to start shopping, researching, budgeting, and planning for a replacement.

For hot water installation in Indianapolis or the surrounding area, give Carter’s My Plumber a call. In the meantime, here are some general guidelines about the average age of a hot water heater.


What’s the Average Age for a Hot Water Heater?

First and foremost, it’s important to note that the duration of a water heater can vary according to a number of factors. Some of the most determinate factors include make and model, water heater type, and the level of maintenance you invest into your unit.

As a general rule of thumb:

  • A conventional gas-powered water heater will typically last around eight to 12 years.
  • An electric unit can last closer to 10 to 15 years.
  • In both cases, it is possible for a unit to last 20 years or more, assuming good maintenance. However, once your heater reaches this point in its lifespan, it’s usually not worth paying the water heater repair cost any longer. Instead, it’s smarter to invest in a new unit.

What are the Most Common Signs of Water Heater Failure?

How do you know when your water heater is nearing the end of its useful life? There are a number of telltale issues to watch out for. Some of these issues include:

  • Brownish, rusty, or tinted water coming from the water heater. This could be a problem with the pipes or with the water heater tank. Issues with the tank typically require full replacement, though a skilled plumber can tell you more about your different options.
  • Rumbling or gurgling sounds coming from your water heater. This is usually a sign of buildup in the unit or in the pipes.
  • Cold water! If you turn on the hot and all you get is an icy chill, that’s a sure sign that your appliance needs repair or replacement.
  • Water or moisture around your water heater. This may point to a crack or leak in your water tank. These issues usually require you to have the unit replaced, perhaps by upgrading to a tankless model.

Additional Questions About Water Heater Lifespans

How do I know when my water heater needs replacing?

There are plenty of signs your unit needs replacing, including rusty water, crackling noises that come from sediment buildup, water leaks, and more.

Can a hot water heater last 20 years?

A hot water heater can last 20 years if maintained properly. Having a pressure management system with a thermal expansion tank, along with a water softener, will help with this. Professional plumbers can guide you in optimizing your water heater maintenance plan.

Is it worth fixing a 20-year-old water heater?

It is not worth fixing a 20-year-old heater. Instead, talk to your plumbing company about replacing your current water heater, a much smarter long-term investment than spending money on hot water heater repair.

Should I replace a 15-year-old water heater?

We generally recommend replacing any unit that’s past the eight to 12-year mark, though our recommendation may vary depending on the type of water heater we’re looking at.

What is the normal life expectancy of a water heater?

The normal life expectancy of a tanked water heater is 8-12 years. For tankless water heaters, the life expectancy can be more like 10 to 15 years.

At what age should you replace a water heater?

Really, any point, past eight years, generally speaking.

What shortens the life of a water heater?

High water pressure and hard water shorten the life of your heater, as does a lack of regular maintenance.

What makes a water heater last longer?

Maintaining your water heater is very crucial. Be sure you have it drained a minimum of once a year.

What maintenance does a water heater need?

The manufacturer recommends flushing your water heater and checking the anode rod yearly for proper maintenance.

Should I replace my water heater before it fails?

There is nothing worse than going without a water heater. It is best to be proactive and replace the water heater.

Kelson Carter

Article reviewed by:

Kelson Carter, aka, The Prince of Plumbing

Kelson is a 3rd generation Plumbing Contractor. His family business is located in Greenwood, Indiana, and provides Residential Plumbing Service to the Indianapolis Metro market.

Kelson grew up watching his grandfather and father do plumbing. After graduating high school, Kelson went to Trade School and became a Licensed Master Plumber and Licensed Plumbing Contractor. He is also Certified in Backflow Prevention. He currently owns and operates Carter's My Plumber with his parents.


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