Should I Replace My 20-Year-Old Water Heater?

plumber installing an electric water heater

Does My Water Heater Need Replacement?

The water heater. When was the last time you used it? Probably this morning as you got ready for your day, starting with a hot shower and washing your breakfast dishes. When was the last time you needed a water heater replacement? If you’re like most homeowners, you may not know the age of your current water heater, unless you have a newly built home. 

However, if you turned on the hot water to shower and got only cold or lukewarm water, you may need to get ready for a water heater replacement! Just how often are hot water heaters replaced? The standard tank-style water heater will typically need to be replaced between 5 and 15 years, with an average of around 8 to 10 years. Over time, sediment from the ground begins filling up that water heater tank, and if you don’t catch the quiet indicators that could save you from having to get a water heater replacement, it will clog the unit up, and you won’t get any hot water. Meanwhile, if you think it may be time for a water heater replacement in Vancouver, WA or the surrounding area, you can count on us to help.

What are the indicators a water heater is going out? 

There are 9 indicators that could start around the 6th to 8th year of a water heater. Those indications are: 

  1. Strange Sounds: If you’re hearing strange sounds coming from the water heater, like banging, popping, or rumbling, you should start shopping for a  water heater replacement. 
  2. Water Temperature: If the water temperature isn’t consistent, or it doesn’t get as hot as it used to, you may simply need to turn the thermostat up. If that doesn’t fix the problem, you’re probably looking at a water heater replacement sooner than later. 
  3. Water Pressure: If you have good water pressure from the cold water tap but not the hot water tap, you may need a water heater replacement soon. 
  4. Discolored Water: If the hot water isn’t clear anymore it is discolored, rusty, or yellow in color, the anode rod probably needs to be replaced. If that doesn’t fix the problem, then a water heater replacement is your next option. 
  5. Insufficient Amount of Hot Water: If your shower is cut short by running out of hot water quickly, it is probably time to get a water heater replacement. 
  6. Leaking: If your water heater is leaking water, there is no doubt it is time to invest in a water heater replacement. 
  7. Constant Repairs: If you have had several water heater repairs over the past year or two, it is time to invest in a water heater replacement. A worthy plumber will advise you to do this before they make too many service calls. 
  8. The Water Smells Funny: If the hot water has a funny smell, that is probably a build-up of bacteria in the tank and your best bet is to get a water heater replacement ASAP. 
  9. Water Heater Age: If your water heater is around 8 to 12 years old, even if you’re not experiencing any of the things we’ve mentioned, the safe bet is to get a water heater replacement before you find yourself in cold water! 

How long does it take to replace a water heater?

A professional plumber can complete a tank-style water heater replacement usually within an hour. If there are any issues with the electricity, gas, or water lines, it may take a little longer. If you’re getting a tankless water heater replacement for the standard tank style, this can take 4 to 6 hours. This longer time is needed to run any additional electrical or gas lines, move any water lines, etc. 

What’s included in a water heater installation?

First, the water, electricity, and/or gas are turned off to the water heater. Then the plumber will begin removing the old unit, including any gas or water lines and drip pan. Then they will install a new drip pan and position the new water heater tank in place.  The electric and/or gas will be reconnected, then the water lines. The water is turned back on and the plumber will inspect for any possible gas or water leaks, repairing as needed. 

Can I install a water heater myself?

If you are handy with basic tools and knowledge of electricity, gas, and water, yes, a water heater replacement can be a DIY project. However, depending on where you live, there may be ordinances that require the job to be done by a licensed plumber and they must have a permit pulled before starting the work. 

How much is a brand-new water heater?

The cost of a new water heater replacement can vary from brand to brand and the different models each brand offers.  Electric tank-style water heaters are less expensive upfront, but the gas-powered tank-style water heater replacement will heat the water faster and longer. 

If you’re interested in switching over to a tankless water heater replacement, the upfront cost will be double or more than staying with the tank style. There are a lot of preparations required for tankless water heater installation and from the electricity or gas to the water line, the plumber will have to either move the lines or add new ones. 

Most plumbers charge by the hour plus materials. Some may offer a flat rate after reviewing where the tankless water heater will be installed versus where the current water is located. 

The Bottom Line

Even if you are a handy homeowner who does DIY projects around the house, having your water heater replacement done by a professional will give you a warranty on the installation. And, if the water heater has problems later, the manufacturer will honor their warranty on the unit if installed by a professional. If you need a water heater replacement in Vancouver, WA or the surrounding area, it’s often best to rely on the professionals to help. You can give us a call at (360) 831-2041 to schedule your services if you need a new water heater for your home.