Is it Time for a New Hot Water Tank? Here’s How to Tell

September 15, 2019

How do You Know When a Hot Water Heater Needs to be Replaced

How Often Should You Replace Water Heater?

Wondering whether you should replace your water heater? Here are some telltale signs that it’s time to get a new one.


Your Water Heater is Getting Old

If your water heater is more than 10 years old, it’s probably reaching the end of its lifespan. Most conventional electric hot water tanks will last 10-15 years maximum. Gas-powered hot water tanks usually breakdown after 8-10 years, while tankless water heaters can last over 15 years with regular maintenance.

If you don’t know how old your water heater is, you can often figure it out when it was manufactured by looking at the serial number. Most brands have a warranty search page on their website, or a toll-free warranty phone line where you can enter your serial number to find out when your tank was manufactured, and what the warranty coverage is. For older tanks, the serial number may begin with a letter from A to L. Each letter represents a month (A=January, B=February, C=March, and so on) and the 2 digits that follow the letter represent a year (10=the year 2010, 11=the year 2011, etc.). Say, for example, your tank’s serial number begins with “E08,” then it was probably manufactured in May of 2008.



You should never ignore any leaks when it comes to plumbing, but this is especially important when it comes to hot water tanks. Slow, seemingly minor leaks can easily escalate quickly and could result in a break in the tank, causing a flood. Call a plumber immediately if you notice any dripping or puddles forming underneath your water heater.


Signs of Rust

If hot water comes out discoloured or smelling/tasting metallic, this is a sign of a tank that is rusting from the inside and the rust is flaking off into the water. If there are no signs of rust on the outside and the tank is relatively young, rusty water may just point to a rusted anode rod, which may need to be replaced.

If, however, there is rust visible on the outside of your hot water tank, this is a sure-fire indication that it’s almost time to get a new water heater. Once your water heater begins to rust, it means that it is beginning to break down and is likely to begin leaking soon.


No (or Less) Hot Water

Well, clearly something is wrong with your water heater if it’s failing to heat your water. This usually means that minerals and sediment from the water has built up over time and formed a deposit which acts as a barrier between the burner or element and the water, so the water isn’t heated as effectively.


Increased Bill

If your water heating bill goes up noticeably without an increase in usage, this is a sign that your hot water tank is getting older and becoming less energy efficient. When this begins to happen, it may be more cost effective for you to replace your water heater.


Water Heater Makes Noise

Popping, knocking, or cracking sounds are common indicators that it’s time to replace your water heater. These types of sounds happen when there is a significant sediment buildup that has created a barrier trapping water underneath it. The trapped water heats up, steams, and bubbles, which is what makes noise. When a sediment layer is thick enough that it’s causing noises, it is probably also causing overheating and deterioration of the tank.


When You Just Need to Repair

The following issues are usually worth it to have repaired instead of replacing your whole water heater, unless it is old or has been having a lot of problems. Generally, if your water heater is 6 years old or less, it makes sense to have these problems repaired.

  • Failed gas valve
  • Rusted anode rod
  • Pilot light outages
  • Broken thermostat


Maintenance to Lengthen Your Water Heater’s Life Expectancy

Proper maintenance can make a big difference in how long your water heater lasts. Have your hot water tank flushed out annually. This gets rid of built-up sediment, preventing malfunction and increasing energy efficiency (which translates to lower bills).

Additionally, have someone inspect the anode rod (also sometimes called the “sacrificial rod”) every 3 years or so. This is a rod made of either magnesium or aluminum located inside the tank. It works like a magnet to collect corrosive material in order to prevent corrosion of the rest of the tank.

At John Sadler, our team of experienced plumber/gas fitters can help you choose the right water heater for your home, install any model you choose, and perform all water heater maintenance and repairs.

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John Sadler Plumbing & Heating

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