How to Tell Your Water Heater is Nearing Failure

Yarbrough & Sons Master Plumber James checks a water heater.

Your water heater has a lifespan of about 8 to 12 years. Here are some key indicators that your water heater may be nearing failure:

  1. Unusual Stains and Melting Foam: When inspecting your water heater, pay attention to any unusual stains or discoloration. These marks could be an indication that your water heater has been set at an excessively high temperature. In such cases, the foam insulation surrounding the tank may begin to melt and run down. This is a clear sign that your water heater is experiencing issues and may require attention.

  2. Presence of Rust: Rust is a common enemy of water heaters and can serve as a warning sign that your appliance is nearing failure. Keep an eye out for rust in the drip pan or anywhere on the tank or its surface. Rust indicates corrosion, which weakens the structural integrity of the water heater and increases the risk of leaks. If you notice rust, it's advisable to start considering a replacement.

  3. Previous Leaks: Leaks are a red flag that your water heater is in trouble. Even if the leak was minor and repaired, it's an indication that the system has experienced stress and strain. Additionally, the presence of a leak could suggest internal damage that may not be immediately visible. Regularly check for signs of leakage, such as dampness or pooling water around the appliance.

  4. Age of the Water Heater: The age of your water heater is an important factor in determining its remaining lifespan. Most conventional water heaters have an average lifespan of 8 to 12 years. If your water heater is approaching or has exceeded this timeframe, it's prudent to be proactive and start planning for a replacement. Older units are more likely to experience problems, inefficiency, and a higher risk of failure.

Consider the age of your water heater as a factor in assessing its condition. When in doubt, consult a professional to evaluate the health of your water heater and guide you in making the best decision for a replacement. Ensuring a well-functioning water heater will save you from unexpected cold showers and potential water damage in your home.

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