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How long do water heaters last?

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Getting the most out of your water heater

Residential homes are traditionally outfitted with storage tank heaters. More energy-efficient tankless/on-demand and hybrid/heat pump water heaters are relatively new to the scene. Whether you’re looking to replace your water heater or upgrade to a new one, the lifespan of the unit matters. How long your water heater lasts will depend on the type, build quality, the water quality in your area and how the heater is maintained.

Shop this article: Rheem 50-Gallon Residential Electric Water Heater, Stiebel Eltron Tempra 36 Plus Tankless Heater and A.O. Smith 50-Gallon Voltex Hybrid Heat Pump Water Heater

Water heater lifespan by type

Traditional tank water heaters have the shortest lifespan, lasting an average of eight to 12 years. Exposure to water, oxygen and minerals over time corrode the tank from the inside, causing it to leak. This process is usually what causes a traditional water heater to expire. 

Tankless water heaters have the longest lifespan and are capable of lasting around 15 to 20 years. There is no tank to degrade over time, and they don't operate constantly the way a traditional tank heater does. Eventually, though, tankless water heater components may also experience corrosion. 

Hybrid water heaters typically last for 13 to 15 years. Like tankless water heaters, they don't run continuously, which increases their lifespan compared to traditional tank units. Still, they do contain a tank, so they won’t last as long as tankless models.

Other factors that influence a water heater’s life expectancy

Quality is an obvious factor in a water heater’s longevity. Higher-quality units tend to have thicker tanks, better insulation and superior components overall. Heaters that have been routinely maintained and cared for last longer than neglected units. Water quality is another significant factor — hard water can reduce the water heater’s lifespan by causing mineral buildup on the heating element and in the tank.

Signs it may be time to replace your water heater

If you’ve noticed that your energy bill has gotten higher, it could be a sign that your water heater is no longer performing optimally. Knocking noises in the tank, rusty, cloudy or discolored water and leaks are all telltale signs that your water heater should be replaced. 

How to extend water heater life expectancy

Flush your water heater yearly

Flushing your water heater helps clear out sediment that builds up in the tank. Manufacturers generally recommend flushing a water heater once a year, but if you live in an area with hard water, it’s safer to go with twice a year. 

Replace the anode rod regularly

The anode rod in a tank or hybrid water heater attracts particles of limestone, iron and other minerals away from vulnerable components in the tank. Most water heater manufacturers recommend replacing the anode rod every one to three years. 

Monitor the pressure valve

Tank and hybrid water heaters have a pressure valve that releases pressure if the tank overheats. If the valve is not working properly, it can cause the tank to rupture — and in rare cases, explode. 

Install a water softener 

If your home experiences hard water, consider installing a water softener

Add an expansion tank

In a closed plumbing system, a tank water heater can put stress on pipes and plumbing fixtures through the process of thermal expansion, which happens when water is heated. An expansion tank is essentially an overflow tank that prevents excessive pressure, protecting your plumbing and the heater itself.

Test your water pressure

Normal water pressure in a home should be under 80 psi. When water pressure is too high, it puts stress on the water tank. You can test this with a water pressure gauge.

Adjust the temperature

Most manufacturers recommend keeping your water heater at about 120 degrees for optimal performance.

Best tank water heaters

Rheem 50-Gallon Residential Electric Water Heater

This 50-gallon electric water heater can effectively support households with three to five people. It comes with a six-year tank and parts warranty.

Sold by Walmart

Rheem 40-Gallon Residential Electric Water Heater

This is a smaller electric tank model, with a 40-gallon tank that will suit two to four people. The heater includes a six-year tank and parts warranty.

Sold by Walmart

Rheem 40-Gallon Natural Gas Water Heater

This 40-gallon unit can reliably heat water for households of two to four people. It has a convenient push-button ignition that simplifies the startup process. The heater comes with a six-year tank and parts warranty.

Sold by Walmart

Best tankless water heaters

Stiebel Eltron Tempra 36 Plus Tankless Heater 

This electric tankless unit can provide continuous hot water for three to four bathrooms in warm climates or two to three bathrooms in cool climates. The heater features a digital display and preset temperature buttons for simple operation. It comes with seven-year leakage and three-year parts warranties.

Sold by Amazon

EcoSmart ECO 27 Tankless Water Heater

This modest yet effective unit is most suitable for apartment and condo units in warmer climates. The electric heater has a digital display and dial temperature controls. With a lifetime warranty, this model gives you peace of mind.

Sold by Amazon

Eemax Electric Tankless Water Heater

This model can produce enough hot water for up to one shower and two sinks simultaneously in a cold climate, or four showers at once in a warm climate. It has a digital display and dial controls. This electric heater includes five-year leak and one-year parts warranties. 

Sold by Amazon

Best hybrid water heaters

A.O. Smith 50-Gallon Voltex Hybrid Heat Pump Water Heater

This hybrid water heater’s 50-gallon tank can support households of three to five people. You have the choice of efficiency, hybrid, electric or vacation operating modes, which are accessible through the electronic interface. The hybrid electric heater comes with a six-year tank and parts warranty.

Sold by Amazon

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Amy Evans writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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