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How Long Will Your Water Heater Last?

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Your water heater plays an important part in keeping your family comfortable. No one likes cold showers, and having clean laundry and dishes makes life a lot more pleasant for everyone! You depend on your water heater to keep working, but like every major appliance it has a lifespan. So how long will it last? The answer depends on several factors.

Water, particularly hot water, is hard on metal. All tap water contains dissolved oxygen, which corrodes metal. It also contains minerals that increase electrical conductivity, leading to even more corrosion. Heating the water only speeds up the effect. If you live in an area with hard water, your water heater will face more corrosion and its useful life will be shorter. If you keep your water heater's thermostat set higher than the recommended 130°, corrosion increases as well. The harder your water, and the hotter the temperature, the faster the rate of corrosion.

Top quality water heaters are better at resisting corrosion and therefore last longer. Manufacturers install magnesium anode rods inside water heater tanks to act as a kind of “lightning rod.” The anode attracts the minute electrical currents created by the minerals in the water, and keeps them from damaging the tank walls and fittings. A higher quality water heater will have a thicker or longer corrosion-fighting anode.

Different types have different life spans. A storage tank water heater generally lasts from eight to fifteen years, and you can expect a tankless system to keep working for twenty years or more. Tankless water heaters, also called “on demand” water heaters, heat up water as it flows through a heat exchanger on its way to your tap. They have no reservoir, and last longer because they're not subjected to the corrosive effect of standing hot water.

Whether tankless or traditional, every water heater benefits from a little maintenance. The anodes that protect water heater tanks can and should be replaced as they wear out, and industry experts recommend servicing tankless models once a year. Both types need regular maintenance to clear sediment and mineral deposits, and check for leaks. Having a qualified plumber perform an annual check up on your water heater can help it last years longer.

Your water heater won't last forever, but annual maintenance checks, buying quality and understanding the effects of water quality and temperature can help you avoid cold baths and messy leaks!

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