Water heaters are a topic of much discussion during a home inspection. Life expectancies are all over the place. Most home inspectors prefer to err on the side of caution, and may suggest the life expectancy is only 10 years. If a home inspector were to average the age of the water heaters inspected, it would probably be a good bit higher than 10 years. That average would include the brand new water heaters inspected in brand new homes. My report will tell you that water heaters last 10 - 20 years with most failing in the 12 - 14 year range. Well, my water heater is the exception. I have an A.O. Smith, power vented water heater that has lasted 23 years. Sadly, it passed away today. I may have resuscitated it, but why wait until the tank rusts out, and it begins to leak. Having removed a bunch of rusted out water heaters during my time as a maintenance technician, I can tell you, it is much more difficult to remove a leaking water heater, without making a mess. At this point you may be wondering just what kept old faithful going? A.O. Smith deserves some credit, but some basic maintenance will help you to get the most out of your water heater:
Flush the water heater's storage tank every couple of years. Water heaters collect sediment, and the sediment will speed up the natural deterioration of the tank. When a tank rusts out, it is done! It will leak, or even burst, and make a big mess. A slow leak may cause more damage because warm water promotes mold growth.
Have the sacrificial anode rod replaced every four or five years. The anode rod will gradually deteriorate over the years to save the tank. Once the rod is used up, the tank will corrode more rapidly.
My cost for just the new water heater is $1300. Add the expansion tank, fittings, labor, and I am going to spend close to $2000. If I had to pay a plumber retail, it would cost a lot more! If I had done nothing to maintain the water heater, I might be replacing it a second time. And by the way, I'm getting another A.O. Smith!
Thank you for reading my blog,
Owner and Inspector
1st American Home Inspections