Are you concerned that your water heater might be going out? Replacing a water heater before it completely dies is important for ensuring you’re not left without hot water. It can also greatly reduce the chances of the unit developing a major leak that could lead to significant water damage or mold issues. While knowing when a water heater needs to be replaced isn’t always an exact science, here are a few signs that can help you know when it’s time so that you don’t risk waiting too long.

1. Leaks

Tankless water heaters are far less prone to leaking simply because they don’t have a tank that stores water. A tankless unit can still end up leaking, but it doesn’t necessarily mean the unit is at the end of its life. It usually happens because the hot or cold water pipe that connects to the unit is leaking, not the water heater itself. Luckily, this is usually quite easy to fix and doesn’t require replacing the water heater.

Tank water heaters, on the other hand, are quite prone to developing leaks as they age. Most units have a solid steel tank that slowly rusts and corrodes over time to the point where it may spring a leak. Most units also have a few features that help to protect the tank from corrosion, such as an anode rod and a glass or ceramic coating inside the tank. Making sure to have the anode rod replaced every few years will slow the rate of corrosion and potentially help the water heater last longer. Nonetheless, the tank will always slowly corrode over time no matter what you do.

Not all types of leaks will require a tankless water heater to be replaced since it depends on where the leak is coming from. Repairing a leaky hot or cold water pipe on the unit is easy. Sometimes a tank water heater can also drip a bit of water because the temperature and pressure inside the tank rose too high and caused the T&P (temperature and pressure) relief valve to open. This valve can also fail or get stuck open, in which case it will need to be replaced.

The T&P valve is located near the top of the tank and is a safety measure that ensures the unit can’t possibly explode due to high pressure. Any time it opens or leaks, you will usually see evidence of water dripping down the side of the tank. While a T&P valve that often opens or starts leaking isn’t something you should ignore, it doesn’t necessarily mean your water heater needs to be replaced.

When you need to worry and act immediately is if you notice water leaking out of the tank itself or there is lots of water pooling up around your unit. These issues usually mean that the tank has started to rust through, which is not something that can be fixed. Replacing your water heater immediately if the tank starts leaking is important. If not, there is a fairly high chance that the tank could suddenly rupture and send its entire contents flooding out.

2. Age

The fact that tank water heaters can be extremely prone to major leaks if they get too old means you should always be proactive and replace your unit before it fails. Electric units can potentially last for 15 years, while gas units normally give out after eight to 12 years. If your water heater is nearing the end of its expected lifespan, it’s a good idea to replace it before it completely fails. Not only will replacing the unit ensure it doesn’t have a catastrophic leak, but it can also help you save quite a bit on your energy bills.

3. Water Doesn’t Get Hot Enough

The performance of most water heaters tends to suffer as they age. Annual maintenance can definitely help to lessen this effect. Nonetheless, there will generally always come a time when your water heater no longer performs effectively and can no longer heat the water to the right temperature. This can also happen due to issues like sediment build-up from not having the unit flushed often enough. A dirty gas burner or electric heating element that is worn out or starting to fail can also prevent your water from getting hot enough. However, if your water heater is fairly old and you often don’t have sufficient hot water, it usually indicates that the unit can no longer perform effectively and should be replaced.

4. Long Recovery Times

It is fairly easy to use up the full supply of hot water if you have a tank water heater. Recovery time refers to how long it takes a unit to fully heat all of the water in the tank back to the correct temperature when this happens. Gas water heaters heat quite a bit more quickly than electric units. Depending on the size of the tank, the recovery time for most gas units will be between 30 minutes and an hour. The recovery time for electric units is often between one and two hours.

Recovery times can sometimes be a bit longer in winter when the water entering your home is colder. However, this isn’t as big of an issue in Florida due to our warmer weather. In general, your water heater’s recovery times should remain fairly constant as long as the unit is working properly. If you notice it is starting to take much longer before your older water heater can fully bring the water up to temperature, it can also be a good indication that it’s time to replace it.

5. Expensive Repair Needs

Although water heaters still require regular maintenance, they are often not as prone to needing repairs compared to other appliances like air conditioners and furnaces. Nonetheless, they can still end up breaking down or needing somewhat major repairs, especially if not maintained annually. If you have an aging water heater that needs to be repaired, it is important to consider the estimated cost of repairs when deciding whether it is worth it.

Many water heater repairs are fairly easy and not all that expensive. However, it really doesn’t make sense to spend several hundred dollars to repair a unit that no longer works that well and may only have a couple of years of life left.

6. Increasing Energy Costs

This last one is a bit more difficult since there are obviously many other things besides your water heater that can lead to your energy bills suddenly increasing. This is especially true if you have an electric water heater. On the other hand, if you have a gas unit and your gas bills are suddenly higher, it’s definitely a sign that you should get your water heater inspected to determine if it needs to be replaced or repaired.

J&W Heating and Air + Plumbing has been serving residents of Jacksonville and the surrounding areas since 1966. We offer professional water heater installation services, and our team can help you decide which brand, model and type you should install. We’ll also happily provide a free consultation and estimate for the installation so that you can be certain you’re getting a fair price. Our team can also take care of any of your other plumbing installation and repair needs, and we’re available 24/7 for any emergencies.

As the area’s leading HVAC company, we’re also ready to assist if you need any air conditioning or heating installation, maintenance or repair services. To schedule a water heater replacement or a plumbing service, give our expert team a call today.

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