The lifespan of a water heater is usually around 10 to 15 years. There are some units that last longer than that, of course. How do you know it’s time for a replacement then?
First of all, if you want to get more from your water heater, then you should definitely consider an upgrade to a unit that is more energy-efficient. This may cost you quite a lot now, but in the long run you actually get to save money on energy costs. If an upgrade is not among your priorities these days however, and you are unsure whether you should replace yours, consider these factors:
Have you been maintaining the water heater properly? All experts will tell you that those units that are maintained on a regular basis and have been flushed every year will definitely last longer than those that have been neglected.
How often do you really use the water heater? If it is used quite often or if there are a lot of people living in your house using hot water, then it is possible that your heater has experienced more wear than those who are not used that often.
What can you say about the quality of the water in your area? Know that the life of your heater is affected by the quality of water. Hard or low quality water causes a higher level of sediment that could eventually build-up and shorten the lifespan of your heater.
Where is the heater located? If you have the heater on an upper floor and there are no drains anywhere near, it will cause a big trouble if it leaks and require expensive repairs. If it is, however, in your basement and there is a drain nearby, then it is not much of a concern.
If you intend to keep using your old but still operable water heater, contact a reputable plumber to perform a complete inspection and regular maintenance. This would include checking for the presence of rust, making sure the connections are properly working, and that the gas valve, burner chamber and pan are free from any leakages and corrosion. Sediments could be removed by flushing cold water.
If the cost of repairs is relatively high, perhaps it would be wiser to just invest in a new unit. Even experts would tell you that it is rarely a good idea to fix a water heater that has already reached the end of its expected lifespan.