How Long Do Water Heaters last?

If you’re like most Americans, you probably couldn’t think about living without your water heater. It provides the water you need to clean your hands, clean your clothes, and give you that oh-so-relaxing bath after a long day at the office.

But how long do water heaters last? Knowing this question will help you prepare to replace yours when necessary, as well as make all the service appointments necessary to extend your water heater’s life.

Why It’s Important to Know your Water Heater Lifespan

Next to replacing your foundation or your roof, replacing your water heater is one of the most expensive things to replace in your home. On average, homeowners can expect to pay $1,217 to replace their water heater, with a national range between $810 and $1,656.


It’s important to know the average lifespan of your water heater so you know when this time is coming. This is not an expense that most homeowners want surprising them, so take a few minutes to familiarize yourself with the make and model of your water heater.

Average Lifespan of Water Heaters

As a general rule, you should expect to get around 8-12 years of life out of your water heater. It may show signs of wear and tear before that though, but most modern-day water heaters should last close to a decade by standard use.

Factors that Affect the Lifespan of Water Heaters

Although knowing your specific model of water heater is great information, there are all sorts of other factors that you should take into consideration to give yourself a good ballpark of your water heater’s failure date.

A few items to consider are:

  • Quality of Installation: How well your water heater was installed can play a huge role in determining how long your water heater lasts. If it’s done hastily or by an inexperienced tech, chances are you could lose a few years overall. If in doubt, hire a professional plumber to either install your water heater or take a second look. 
  • Frequency of Use: If there are only a few people that live under your roof, your water heater won’t see nearly the same amount of usage as a multi-family home with 15 or more people. It makes sense: Water heaters that are used more often tend to run out quicker.
  • Maintenance Schedule: There’s no question that regular maintenance and repairs will extend the life of your water heater. Whether that’s flushing the tank, changing the anode rod, adjusting the pressure relief valve, or just taking a peek inside to make sure everything is operational, it’s a good idea to have your water heater checked periodically.
  • Quality of Water: Hard water contains higher levels of minerals like calcium and magnesium, so you should expect more buildup inside your tank if you live in an area that has hard water. 

What is the Average Lifespan of an Electric Water Heater?

Electric water heaters generally last longer than their gas-powered counterparts, with the average electric water heater lasting from 10-15 years.

Many homeowners love electric water heaters because they’re simpler to operate than others. There’s no pilot light, they’re more efficient, and require less maintenance than gas water heaters. 

Electric water heaters tend to be more environmentally friendly, so if you’re looking to reduce your carbon emissions, electric water heaters make a great choice. 



What is the Average Lifespan of a Tankless Water Heater?

Tankless water heaters last significantly longer than just about every other water heater system. If you install a tankless heater in your house, you should expect to get close to 20 years of life out of that unit.

This lifespan is due in large part to the fact that they require less maintenance to keep them functioning, and are overall much more efficient systems. Instead of holding water inside the storage tank (which can erode the system), they only heat the water as its passing through the pipes, reducing the unit’s overall wear and tear.

Signs That Your Water Heater Needs to be Replaced

There’s a big difference between how long a water should last and how long it often does last. If you see any of the below signs, call a licensed plumber for an inspection as soon as possible.

Visible Signs of Wear and Tear

The signs of a water heater that is breaking down are usually pretty obvious, but some can be more subtle than others.

  • Water pooling around the base of the unit
  • Rust on the tank itself or the connections
  • Popping or banging noises that emanate from the water heater

Decreased performance

A water heater that needs to be replaced will usually be seen in how the water heater operates.

For instance, if it takes an unusually long period of time for your water heater to get hot again after usage, that might be a sign that your system isn’t running very efficiently.

Higher water bills are another sign. Water prices will continue to fluctuate, but if you notice a big jump in your bills, have your water heater looked at.

Weird-smelling or weird-tasting water are another indication that something is wrong. Alternatively, you may notice discoloration in the water itself. 

Obviously, you should never drink water if it looks like it was pulled from the bottom of Lake Tyler, but if you have any questions at all, have a professional check it out.

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