If you’re thinking of buying a water heater, you might wonder, “How long does a hot water heater last?” The lifespan of a water heater can vary based on different factors. But knowing the average life of a heater and the signs it needs replacing can help you get the best use from it.

Life Expectancy of Water Heaters

The longevity of your hot water heater hinges on the type, usage, and maintenance. On average, tank style water heaters, including both gas and electric water heaters, tend to last about 8 to 12 years. However, with regular maintenance and optimal usage, you could potentially extend this life expectancy to 15 or even 20 years.

Tankless water heaters, on the other hand, are known to last significantly longer. With proper care, these can function efficiently for around 20 years, sometimes even longer.

Identifying Your Water Heater’s Age

Determining the age of your water heater can be quite straightforward. The serial number on your water heater usually contains the manufacture date. Although the format may vary depending on the brand, typically the first two numbers indicate the year it was made.

Signs You Should Replace Your Water Heater

Even with meticulous maintenance, water heaters can show signs of age over time. If you notice your water supply running out of hot water more quickly than usual or fluctuations in water temperature, it might be time to consider replacing your water heater. Other indicators include excessive noise from the heater, signs of leakage around the unit, or discolored water.

Keep in mind that replacing your water heater isn’t just about age. If your energy bills are rising without a corresponding increase in hot water usage, it may indicate your water heater’s efficiency is decreasing – another sign it might be time to replace your unit.

Maintaining Your Water Heater for Longevity

Proper maintenance is key to prolonging the life of your water heater. Regularly flushing the heater to clean out sediment can help prolong the bottom of the tank and improve the heater’s efficiency. This is crucial as sediment build-up can cause the heating element to work harder, leading to wear and tear over time.

Verify and change the anode rod

Another crucial component for maintenance is the anode rod. This part attracts the corrosive elements in the water, sacrificing itself to protect the tank. Regularly checking and replacing the anode rod can significantly extend your water heater’s lifespan.

Powered anode rod

In addition to regular maintenance, considering an upgrade to a powered anode rod can help extend the lifespan of your water heater. Unlike traditional anode rods that corrode over time, powered anode rods provide continuous protection against corrosion without the need for replacement.

These rods produce a low-level electrical current that prevents corrosive elements in the water from damaging the tank. Although they tend to be more expensive initially, their long-lasting nature and maintenance-free design make them a cost-effective solution for maintaining your water heater’s health in the long term.

Your water heater temperature

Additionally, setting your water heater’s temperature to around 120 degrees Fahrenheit can prevent overheating, saving your heating element from unnecessary strain and extending the heater’s life.

When to Call a Professional

While some maintenance tasks can be performed by homeowners, certain signs indicate it’s time to call a professional. If you’re unsure about the age or condition of your water heater, a professional can provide a thorough evaluation. They can also guide you on replacing components like the anode rod or even the entire unit, if necessary.


So, how long does a water heater last? While the average lifespan ranges from 8 to 20 years, depending on the type of water heater, your unit’s longevity is greatly influenced by how it’s maintained. Regular check-ups, timely replacements, and adjustments in usage habits can all contribute to a longer-lasting hot water heater. Remember, if you’re ever in doubt about your unit’s condition or maintenance, it’s always a good time to call a professional.