What is the typical lifespan of a water heater?
A standard water heater will last between eight and twelve years. Most tanks today are steel lined with glass or porcelain and over time can oxidize and deteriorate. Most tanks will eventually leak – in some cases it will be a slow leak and in some cases it will be a more dramatic leak. For this reason it is a good idea to know where your dedicated water shutoff valve is located.
It’s not too common, but there are homeowners that will see fifteen and in some cases twenty years of useful life from their water heater. Although, it is important to keep in mind, that although a water heater may still be working, most water heaters decrease in efficiency over time as sediment builds up inside the tank.
Tankless water heaters can last two to three times longer than a traditional tank as long as the home owner cares for the tankless unit properly.
Here are a few things that can extend your water heater’s life:
Add a 2nd anode rod
Installing a 2nd anode rod will greatly increase the life of your water heater. The anode rod is a sacrificial rod made of magnesium or aluminum that undergoes galvanic corrosion over time sacrificing itself and thereby preventing corrosion of the tank.
Use an Expansion tank
If you are on a closed system, installing an expansion tank can potentially double the life of your water heater. When water is heated from 50º to 120º, it expands by approximately 2% (so a 50 gallon tank will produce 1 gallon of additional volume). If your system is closed (which means there is a valve which prevents your water from back flowing into the water main), this water has no where to go and because water is not a particularly compressible material, it will cause rapid increases and decreases in water pressure. This expanding and contracting causes stress on both your water heater and your plumbing system which can cause damage and premature failure.
Cleaning or flushing out your tank
For older tanks, flushing the tank out annually can help prevent sediment buildup and maintain higher efficiency of your tank for longer. Many newer model water heaters are self cleaning.
Installing a Pressure Regulating Valve or PRV
If you have very high water pressure above 90 PSI, your water pressure can damage your appliances and can also cause your water heater to fail prematurely. By installing a pressure regulating valve, system pressure is reduced; this also reduces wear and tear on all of your appliances. Keep in mind, if you have a PRV it’s also a good idea to install an expansion tank.
Install a Water softeners
Some areas of the United States such as southern California and the Southwestern United States have water with very high mineral content (often referred to as hard water). Hard water causes scaling which is a precipitation of minerals which deposits onto surfaces of an appliance. This can drastically reduce the life of a water heater. In many cases, installing a water softener can help reduce wear and tear on the plumbing system due to hard water.