Is It Time to Replace Your Water Heater? Signs to Watch Out For

A hot water heater is something most homeowners take for granted. It’s a classic example of “out of sight, out of mind.” As long as you turn on your shower or dishwasher and there’s hot water, you think nothing of it.

However, a traditional hot water heater tank is only designed to last for ten to fifteen years, or maybe 20 if you’re lucky. As such, it’s important to know when the right time is to replace your water heater and potentially upgrade to a better one.

8 Signs You Should Replace Your Water Heater

If you’re on the fence about whether or not it’s time to consider a water heater replacement, here are eight warning signs to be aware of.

Slow Water Pressure

Slow water pressure is one of the first signs you need to watch out for with your water heater. You see, a traditional water heater works by collecting water into a holding tank. A heating element within the tank then heats up the water, and it flows freely throughout your home as needed.

Over time, sediment buildup starts to form within the tank if you have hard water. When this happens, some of the sediment can break off and get lodged in your supply lines. If enough sediment builds up in the supply lines, you’ll have slower water flow.

While it’s possible to repair the immediate issue within your supply pipes, you can’t remove sediment buildup within the water heater. Your best bet is to keep it from happening in the first place by installing a whole-house water softener or water treatment system.

Less Hot Water Than Normal

Another side effect of sediment buildup in the bottom of the tank is that there’s less room for water. As a result, you’ll start to notice that your hot water runs out faster than normal. This is extremely inconvenient if you have a large household or try to operate multiple appliances simultaneously, such as your shower, dishwasher, and washing machine.

Higher Energy Bills

In addition to having insufficient hot water, your heating element will have to work harder to heat water up as your water heater gets older. This will result in higher energy bills than normal despite having less hot water to show for it. Older water heaters also aren’t as eco-friendly as a newer energy-efficient model.

Even if your water heater is giving you grief, you can still benefit from upgrading to a new hot water heater. Newer models are more efficient, heat water up faster, and are more user-friendly than older water heaters.

Debris in Your Water

Initially, when sediment buildup breaks off and gets into your water supply, it may not cause a clog. Instead, it will flow right through your water lines and out your taps. In addition to being disgusting, debris in your water is also a health hazard, depending on what it is.

Cloudy or Discolored Water

If debris in your water isn’t bad enough, there’s also a good chance your water will be cloudy or discolored if you have a water heater on the fritz. Discolored water can happen because of sediment buildup or because the inside of your tank has started to rust. Either way, you’re looking at contaminated water and a definite replacement.

However, don’t be too quick to blame your water heater for discolored water. Several other problems within your plumbing system can cause the same issue, and it would be a shame to pay for a new hot water heater for no reason. Instead, have a professional plumber inspect your water heater and water supply lines for potential plumbing issues.

Erratic Water Temperature

As your water heater ages, it will begin to struggle with consistency. Your “hot” water may fluctuate between hot, scalding, warm, lukewarm, or even cool. In most cases, this is because something is wrong with the heating element within the water heater.

While you might be able to solve the problem by replacing the heating element, you should consider changing water heaters if yours is getting up there in age.

Your Water Heater is Getting Older

As we said in the introduction, a traditional tanked hot water heater will last an average of 10 to 15 years. While some can last upwards of 20 years, this is only if you have a water softener and take care of your plumbing system.

In many instances, hot water heaters actually last fewer than ten years, and some can give out within months of installation. While this is usually due to installer error, it could also be because of a manufacturing defect, issues with your expansion tank, or other inevitable reasons.

Leaks in Your Water Heater Tank

If you notice water running down the side of your water heater or pooling at its base, it’s the last straw. You definitely need to start looking for a replacement water heater because it’s only a matter of time before the leak gets worse.

Can I Replace My Own Water Heater?

Unlike other potential plumbing problems, you might be able to perform your own water heater replacement if you have the right tools and some plumbing experience. Replacing a water heater is fairly straightforward and includes the following steps.

  1. Turn off power and close the gas supply (if applicable) to the water heater.
  2. Close the cold water supply valve above the water heater.
  3. Drain the tank of the water heater.
  4. Disconnect the water and gas supply lines (if applicable.)
  5. Remove the old water heater.
  6. Place the new water heater in place.
  7. Connect the water lines and gas lines (if applicable.)
  8. Reconnect the power supply (if applicable) to the water heater, but don’t turn the power on yet.
  9. Install the new pressure relief valve to the top or side of the water heater, depending on your model.
  10. Open the cold water supply to the water heater and let the tank fill completely.
  11. Once the tank is full, turn the power supply back on.
  12. For gas water heaters, open up the gas supply and relight the pilot light to start the heating element.
  13. It will take anywhere from 30 minutes to several hours for your water to heat up.

It’s important to understand that this process only works for the most basic water heater replacement jobs. The replacement is much more difficult if there is an expansion tank, flue pipe, temperature valve, overflow pipe, dip tube, or other components. You also risk injuring yourself when you work with gas and electricity and aren’t sure what you’re doing. 

As such, it’s always best to contact a professional plumber to handle your water heater replacement. A plumbing professional will be able to tell you if your problem is, in fact, with the water heater or if you have other plumbing issues.

Additionally, there’s a chance you only need a water heater repair rather than a replacement. A plumbing pro can potentially save you money and get a few more years of life out of your current water heater.

Another thing to consider if you replace your own aging water heater is that you might need to pull a permit. Depending on where you live, you could face a fine or penalty if you replace your water heater without getting a permit for it.

What Type of Water Heater Should I Upgrade To?

If you currently have a tanked water heater, it’s tempting to stick with what you know and install a new hot water heater tank. While that’s certainly an option, it might not be the best one. Instead, consider upgrading to a brand-new tankless water heater.

Tankless water heaters are more efficient than tank water heaters because they use less gas and electricity. Tankless water heaters also deliver unlimited hot water on demand, which means you’ll never run out. Finally, a high-quality tankless water heater can last two to three times as long as tanked water heaters.

While tankless water heaters are more expensive initially than other options, they typically pay for themselves in longevity and efficiency.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *