Repair or Replacement?: How to Determine If You Need a New Water Heater

woman checking water temperature

Boiling potatoes for dinner, taking a warm shower, or washing your dirty dishes all require one thing: an efficient water heater. Reliance on hot water has become a modern-day necessity. While repairs can fix both minor and major problems, often repairs cannot resolve the fact that it’s time for a replacement.

So how can you tell when it’s time for a new water heater?


Old Age

A water heater should be replaced every 10 to 15 years. Avoid major risks of water damage, mold, or mildew by making sure you have an updated unit.

Here are a few ways to tell how old your unit is:

  1. Look for the serial number on the manufacturer’s sticker. Quite often the first two numbers will represent the year the heater was made.
  2. Check your manufacturer’s website for a timeline for replacement.
  3. Check your owner’s manual for date of installation and other information.
  4. Call a heating expert who can likely pinpoint a general assessment of repair or replacement.


Loud Noise

As your water heater ages, sediment builds up on the bottom of the tank. The heater heats and reheats the sediment until it hardens. Once this happens, you’ll start to hear banging or rumbling from your water heater.

What does this noise mean?

The obstruction from the hardened sediment forces the heater to work harder by using more gas or electricity to heat the water. That inefficiency of the water heater then leads to more wear and tear on the tank, which leads to leaks, cracks, and holes in your water heater. In this case, repairing those external issues will not solve the real problem of needing a new water heater.


Water Puddles

Though your water heater’s purpose is to handle water, that water should never be visible. If you’re seeing puddles of water near the heater or water dripping from the side of the tank then likely the damage is inside the tank. Generally, this is a pretty clear sign that the water heater needs to be replaced.


Poor Water

Water that looks rusty, or smells and tastes metallic, points to a water heater problem. Angie’s List recommends a helpful test to avoid replacing a functioning water heater. Drain five-gallon buckets of hot water out of the water heater. After about the third bucket, if the water from the water heater is still coming out rusty then most likely the water heater, as opposed to maybe rusty piping, is at fault.

You’ll know that the water heater needs to be replaced when you no longer have enough hot water. No one likes their hot shower getting cut short with the sudden rush of cold water. Sediment build-up obstructs the space between the water and the heat. If you’re water isn’t being heated properly, it could be time for a new water heater.


What Next?

If you’ve noticed one or more of these problems with your water heater, it may be time to get a new one. Contact specialists like Bellows Plumbing, Heating & Air for an assessment of your water heater situation and potential solutions.