How Long Does A Water Heater Last? A Guide For Consumers

Kenneth Wilson

Warm running water can be considered a modern-day household essential for many homeowners. It is arguably a necessity for hand washing, showering, cooking, and cleaning. Whilst most homeowners are aware that a water heater does not last forever, it can sometimes be difficult to estimate their life expectancy.

The average lifespan of water heaters is roughly between 8 and 10 years. Even the best water heaters do not tend to work well beyond 1 decade or so. There are some factors that can accelerate the aging process, likewise there are some ways to prolong the life of a water heater as far as possible. 

This article will explore factors that may affect the average product life cycle of your water heater, when it may be time to replace it, how to prolong the life cycle of your water heater and the cost implications of installing a new one in your home.

Read on to gather all of the relevant information you need to properly gauge the lifespan of a water heater.

What is a Water Heater?

Before exploring the lifespan of a water heater, it is worthwhile briefly outlining exactly what a water heater is and why it is used.

A water heater is a tool used for the heating of water for domestic use. Water heaters can be powered by either gas or electricity, and it is useful to research which type you feel is best suited to your household needs before purchasing one.

Hot water is used for a multitude of household purposes and is an important part of the everyday running of most households. For example, hot water is often required for cooking, cleaning, and bathing.

When should I Replace my Water Heater?

We all know that nothing lasts forever, and this is certainly true of water heaters. As mentioned, water heaters typically last up to 10 years before needing to be replaced. (Related: Water Heater Replacement Cost and Consumer Guides) There are several signs to look out for that can help you identify if it’s time for a replacement to be installed:

Too Old

It is surprisingly common for homeowners not to be aware of the expiration date of their water heater. However, the age of a water heater should be an important consideration when deciding whether to purchase a new one or not. If a water heater is too old, it can pose a significant risk to your home.

A water heater should be replaced every decade at least, however signs of aging can show up before this date.

Rusty Water

A major issue that can occur with regard to water heaters is rusty water building up on the heater inlet valve. When rust can be observed on a water heater, it can serve as a warning sign that a leak may be expected prominently.

Rust is a water heater issue that should be dealt with immediately as it can disrupt the sanitation of your household water.


Healthy water heaters do not generally make any noise. Therefore, any new noise that can be observed coming from the heater is a strong indicator of an underlying issue.

Noise coming from your heater is usually because of one of the following reasons:

  1. 1
    Sediment build-up – Sediment often forms on the bottom of the tank and hardens over time. This process wears down the heater and can accelerate any other damage and, in turn, render your heater inefficient.
  2. 2
    Heater has not been flushed – Heaters should be flushed once a year to drain any sediment. Unusual noise can be a sign that your heater needs to be flushed. This process can also work to prolong the life expectancy of your heater.


Another tell-tale sign that it is time to replace your water heater is if you notice any amount of water leaking from the tank.

Water leaks usually occur when the water heater tank expands because of many heating cycles over the tank’s lifetime. These expansions cause fractures to form in the metal, allowing small amounts of water to leak through the gaps.

Leaks can also happen if the heater has been fitted poorly, so it is always best to have them fitted by a licensed contractor to minimize any risk of leaks.

Factors Affecting Water Heater Aging

Although water heaters tend to not work beyond 10 years, there are some factors that may accelerate the aging process.

  1. 1
    Cluttered space - A cluttered space around the water heater poses risk of the water heater overheating and potentially creates a fire hazard.
  2. 2
    Irregular check-ups - Not getting your heater checked regularly for maintenance issues can increase the likelihood of major issues happening, and you having to replace your heater sooner.
  3. 3
    Not flushing - Not flushing your heater at least once a year can cause premature aging as allows sediment to build up and can cause complications in the long run.

How to Extend the Life of your Water Heater

Having discussed the factors that can accelerate the aging process, it is worth exploring some of the ways you can prolong the life of your water heater.

  • Give it space. One of the most effective ways you can prolong the product life cycle of your water heater is to ensure ample space is given around the heater when it is installed. It is worthwhile to decrease cluttering around it as this increases air circulation and minimizes fire risks. Adequate space also allows for it to be more easily inspected during maintenance checks.
  • Maintenance checks. Regularly scheduling maintenance check-ups for your water heater means that any smaller issues can be identified and diagnosed before they become major problems. A licensed contractor is trained to spot and fix minor diagnostic issues, which will save you time and money in the long run.
  • Add an expansion tank. Expansions in the metal are one of the main causes of leaks. Expansion tanks work to give the water an outlet, reducing long term wear and tear on the main tank.
  • Install a water softener. In some areas, water can be hard (contain a high mineral content). As mentioned, hard water can shorten the water heater’s life expectancy as it leaves mineral deposits in the tank. Installing a water softener is a good way to protect your water heater against this process.

How much does a new Water Heater Cost?

The average cost to replace a water heater in the US is around $1,700. However, there are often additional costs that you should be aware of. For example, service costs can be up to $100 extra.

But, there are some factors that may impact the final price for installation of the heater. We will outline some of these below:

  • Ancillaries: Firstly, additional costs can accrue from extra parts that you may want to add to the heater. For example, a tempering valve can add around $300 to the total cost of the installation process.
  • Difficult installation: A tricky installation process can also impact the total cost of the water heater. Some variables that may affect the cost in this respect are the cost of the unit itself, the materials used in the installation process, the state of your current plumbing prior to installation and positioning of your pipes. Furthermore, if you wish to install your new water heater in a new spot in your home this will impact the cost. Similarly, converting to a gas water heater from an electric heater – or vice versa – requires either adding a gas line or rewiring, which can be costly processes.


In this article, we’ve addressed how long a water heater should last, concluding that the average life expectancy of a water heater is 8 to 10 years – but this is dependent on how well maintained it is and various other factors.

We discovered that various signs could indicate that it is time to replace your water heater – such as noise, leaks, rust, and age. And we found that several factors can either hinder or extend the life cycle of your water heater, such as getting it regularly checked, ensuring it is in a de-cluttered area, adding an expansion tank and installing a water softener.

Similarly, a replacement water heater costs on average $1,700, but various factors may affect the cost implications of replacing your water heater. Variables include how difficult the installation process is, additional parts you may want to add, service charges, and the type of heater you are installing.

All of these factors are important in helping you, as a homeowner, navigate the product life cycle of a water heater.

Kenneth Wilson
August 30, 2021

Kenneth Wilson

Retired contractor. Currently residing in Southwest Florida. Now in semi-retirement, I write and manage this blog focused on helping home owners make savvy decisions when it comes to finding contractors and getting their projects done. I also operate remodeling design service for homeowners.

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