If a homeowner stays in a house long enough, even if bought brand new, there comes a time when the water heater needs to be replaced. Generally, these appliances are given a minimum lifespan of about a decade. After that, all bets are off. How long a water heater will last depends on the type of water in the area (hard or soft), how much use occurred, whether the tank was flushed regularly or not, whether the anode rod was changed regularly, and manufacturer’s design quality. However, anything outside 12 years is pretty much getting an extra year as a bonus, and if a water heater makes it to twenty years, it’s definitely losing the ability to heat much less keep water hot for more than a few minutes.
Fortunately, there are options for water heater replacement needs, ranging from basic units to very fancy models that include sensors connecting to the Internet to tell owners what’s happening with the unit or any alarms. After all, a water heater generally uses a connection to natural gas, which always has some risk to it even with the safest installations.
There are also options for tankless water heaters, which do away with the tank altogether. Instead, these units run the water through a heating process on a flow basis. These are hot water on demand systems, and they can be powered by gas or electricity. They tend to last much longer, sometimes twice as long as a traditional water heater, but they do require an advanced installation change out if the home was already plumbed for a traditional system. A regular water heater usually has no such hookup issues and just connects with the same lines as the old one.
Handling the Replacement
Given the risk of natural gas as well as plumbing and water damage, the best approach for a water heater replacement has been and continues to be a professional installation. A licensed plumber team can install a new water heater usually in a day, removing the old one and old parts, installing the new one, hooking everything up, checking connections, checking water flow and confirming the safety of the installation. Additionally, because of licensing and bonding, the work is protected in case something actually did go wrong and additional repair is needed after the fact.
While all the parts are definitely available at big box stores, and with additional physical help, one could install a water heater as a do it yourself project, there is no protection if something goes wrong. The installation and any errors are entirely on the homeowner. In fact, due to the lack of professional service being involved, a homeowners’ insurance provider may not cover the home or related damage if something goes wrong as it would have then been caused by the homeowner. If a homeowner is going to insist on a DIY approach, at least check the insurance policy on the home as to what will happen if there is a mistake. With a licensed plumber, however, all these potential headaches are avoided from the start.
Why Upgrade Before the Old Unit is Broken?
Older water heaters lose efficiency significantly after a decade. That means they are using a considerable amount of fuel at cost to do the same job that a new unit can do with half the effort at least. The difference ends up having to be paid on a utility bill. Newer units also have increased safety systems for immediate shut-off, which can literally save a home from a house fire. There are also regular government rebates for upgrading appliances to more efficient models, which can considerably lower the cost of a replacement.
Whichever model is chosen, make a point to use a licensed plumber for the job. It’s not worth your home to make a DIY mistake that can be avoided entirely.