Written on: February 28, 2023
How long can you depend on your current water heating system to keep all of that hot water flowing without any problems?
First, the life span of the most common water heater—units with a storage tank—can vary greatly, anywhere from 7 to 13 years.
How long your storage tank water heater lasts depends on a number of factors, including the temperature of the water you set for the tank, the volume of water used, the overall quality of the water heater model, and perhaps most importantly, the water quality.
This is what we mean by water quality. Many people around the country have to contend with “hard water,” which means their domestic water has a high amount of mineral content. Fortunately, here in Maine, we generally have the advantage of “soft water” with low mineral content. However, manufacturers do recommend flushing your water heater on a yearly basis to remove any mineral particles, dirt, or debris that has collected inside your water storage tank over time. This will improve water heater efficiency and extend the life of your water heater.
To head off any problems with your water heater, it’s wise to call on an experienced service technician, HVAC contractor, or plumber to flush out your hot water storage tank once a year. Your service professional should also check the condition of the anode rod, which generally lasts from 3-5 years.
Storage tank water heaters contain many parts and components, including a long metal anode rod, which extends the life of your water heater by preventing corrosion from building up inside your tank.
Usually made of magnesium or aluminum, the anode rod does its job through a process called electrolysis. The metals in the anode rod attract ions that normally would cause rust in iron and steel. But instead, these ions latch on to the anode rod and as a result, cause it to degrade over time. Without the anode rod, your water heater could rust out in just a few years. That’s why it’s so important to replace the anode rod after it degrades.
Some telltale signs of a failing water heater tank include higher water heating bills, water stains and unusual noises. If it takes longer to heat water than it used to, or the water doesn’t get as hot, these are also signs that you may be ready for a new water heating unit. A big trouble sign is a slow leak from your tank or rust on the tank or in your tap water. (A water tank rusts from the inside out).
Indirect-fired water heaters: This type of unit uses the gas or oil burner in your boiler to heat your tap water. One design is a water tank with coiled pipes inside. These coiled pipes connect to your boiler. Hot water from the boiler passes through the coil, which heats up the water surrounding it. The boiler water never mixes with the contents of your water heater.
Because of this configuration, an indirect-fired water heater is highly efficient. The latest indirect water heating systems are made from stainless steel and often come with a lifetime warranty. Regular maintenance is still recommended to head off any potential water-heating problems.
On-demand tankless water heaters: With incredibly high-efficiency rates (some upwards of 98%), on-demand tankless water heaters require annual maintenance to keep the heat exchanger clean. This allows the water heater to properly heat your water every day.
Read more about selecting a water heater replacement.