Water Heaters: When to Replace?

Your water heater gets quite a workout throughout the day. In fact, if your home is anything like most in the Maryland, DC, and Virginia area, it’s probably one of the most used appliances you have! That’s why when something goes wrong with your water heater, you want it fixed right away. But as the heater gets older, it can be hard to tell whether you should have it repaired or replaced!

Most water heaters will last about 8 to 12 years, depending on things like the weather where you live, the water heater’s design, the quality of its installation, and the level of maintenance the unit has received. So if yours is getting old (think 10 years or more) and you’re starting to see some problems, it might make more sense to replace the whole thing as opposed to repairing it.

What can go wrong with a water heater?

The first time you’ll notice a problem with your water heater is when your water isn’t hot enough. Typically this is caused by a faulty thermostat or a defective heating element, and may be possible to fix on your own:

If you have an electric water heater

  • Make sure that the power is connected. Reset the thermostat.
  • Flush the heater to remove sediment from the tank.
  • Insulate the hot water pipes.
  • Replace the heating element or thermostat.
  • Raise the temperature setting on the thermostat.

If you have a gas water heater

  • Make sure that the gas is connected and the pilot light is lit.
  • Flush the heater to remove sediment from the tank.
  • Insulate the hot water pipes.
  • Clean the gas burner and replace the thermocouple (a safety device that shuts off the gas automatically if the pilot flame goes out).
  • Raise the temperature setting on the thermostat.

Other common problems your water heater may experience include:

  • Hissing or sizzling noises
  • Leaking pressure-relief valves
  • Leaky water supply pipes
  • Pilot light on gas water heater flickers out
  • Circuit breaker for an electric heater trips
  • Burner or heating element fails
  • Thermostat breaks
  • Valve sticks

Should you repair or replace your water heater?

Many of the problems listed above can be fixed by simply replacing one component of the water heater. Once your water heater starts to get older, however, you may have some more serious problems. Over time, minerals in the water react with steel, which causes water tanks to corrode, eventually causing them to leak. Once the water heater starts leaking, it’s game over—you need to have it replaced.

The good news is that modern water heaters are far more energy-efficient than older models. Many use foam insulation for higher heat retention and glass liners that reduce corrosion.

Maintaining Your Water Heater

Whether you repair or replace, water heaters will perform better and last longer if you flush the tank once a year to remove sediment. A bonus: Without all that gunk inside, your water heater will operate more efficiently, saving you money.

Also, check the anode rod—sometimes called the sacrificial rod—every three years. An aluminum or magnesium probe inside the tank, it collects corrosive elements and should be replaced when caked or eaten away. A new one costs about $30.

If it’s time to replace your water heater in Maryland, Virginia, or Washington, DC, don’t wait—call R.V. Carey’s today!