How long does a residential water heater last?

How long does a residential water heater last? – A Comprehensive Guide

Water heaters have become one of the bare necessities for a modern and cozy house style. That’s right. You will almost always find one of those in every household these days.

From taking a bath to cleaning our dishes and everywhere in between, we need to use hot water. And, this applies not only to the winters but to summers as well. 

That’s why water heaters are such an indispensable part of every house nowadays. Being such an everyday product, most of us aren’t aware of how long those might last.

Apart from the complete do-over, its parts also require periodic replacement. There are certainly some telltale signs that help you find out when it’s time to replace.

In this post, we’ll discuss water heaters and how long those last. In addition to that, we’ll be discussing when you should replace the bits and pieces. So, stay tuned.

How many types of water heaters are there?

Before we go anywhere else, let’s take a look at something. Most of us don’t have a concrete idea about the types of water heaters. We believe the one in our house is the only type out there.

But, this isn’t true. As you take a closer look into the market, you will find a variety of water heaters. All of those have their distinct brand, structure, and operating procedure.

In general, the residential water heaters can be of three types based on their fuel. Those are – 

  • Gas-powered water heater
  • Electric water heater
  • Solar-powered water heater

That’s not all. Water heaters also get classified according to their storage system. Depending on that, the heaters can be of two types – 

  • Tankless, on-demand water heater
  • Water heater with a tank

In addition to these, you will find water heaters designed for specific applications. Also, there has been a recent upsurge of Smart water heaters that will connect to the grid.

So, you see, a variety of water heaters are available at your disposal. They would differ in their form, shape, application, and so on. 

As we have a basic idea about the various types of water heaters, let’s find out how long those last individually.

How long does a gas-powered heater last?

The gas-powered water heaters are the most frequent type of water heaters out there. As most of these heaters are portable, they are suitable for camping, RV-ing, and various outdoor activities.

There are also indoor models as well which are heavier compared to the outdoor ones. Portable or not, these types of heaters would primarily use propane to serve you warm water.

If you replace the anode rod every two years and make sure the tank is flushed regularly, any conventional propane-tank water heater will last up to 8 to 10 years.

During this long period, you might need to replace the thermocouple or thermopile a few times.  Also, if you’re using soft water, there will be a slow build-up of limescale inside.

As a result, the heater will long much, much longer. If you’re wondering what soft water is, you should visit our post about hard and soft water. Check it out here.

So, you see, depending on how regularly the heater gets maintained, any conventional gas-fired water heater can serve you up to 8-10 years at a stretch.

How long does an electric water heater last?

Like the gas-powered water heaters, electric water heaters are also very regular in households all over. As the name suggests, they require electricity to warm your water.

In general, every electric water heater comes with two heating elements inside. These heat exchangers remain at different heights in the tank. 

As soon as you plug it in, the built-in circuitry would periodically heat the two elements. As a result, the heat gets evenly distributed throughout the water.

Now, let’s talk about the lifespan of electric water heaters. Without significant alterations, any electric water heater with a tank or tankless will last up to 10 to 15 years.

To keep your system healthy, you need to replace the anode rod periodically every two years. Also, if you install a water softener before your heater, it would serve you longer.

As an extra precaution, you might place a voltage stabilizer ahead of the heater. This would protect the heating element in case of unforeseen voltage fluctuations.

So, you realize, if the components of the heater get taken care of regularly, your electric heater will last for a very long period.

How long does a solar water heater last?

Another residential water heating system that is slowly making its way into the industry is the solar water heaters. The heater introduces the concept of green energy into your home.

The solar water heaters would use the solar energy from the sun and use it to heat the water. As the light beams fall onto its tubes, they would get heated and transmit it into the supply water.

Solar water heaters primarily get used for preheating the water. But, on sunny days, these can raise the temperature at an adequate level. Thus, it saves you a lot on electricity usage.

According to Energy Star, a solar-powered water heater will last for approximately 20 years. But, you should make sure the heater goes through regular maintenance in its lifetime.

As we’ve mentioned earlier, solar heating systems come as preheaters for many households. In the winters, you’ll need to switch onto the gas or electric water heaters.

In addition to solar water heaters, there is another system specific for pool heating. It uses solar panels and generates electricity to keep your pool water warm.

The pool heaters are very popular these days in states like Florida, California, and so on. And, here, the lifespan depends largely on the solar panels.

You have to keep the water pressure and hardness at prescribed levels. Also, regular maintenance of solar panels is required.

In general, a solar pool heater can last from 6 to 15 years. Depending on the quality of the solar panel, it can last even longer.

So, you see, solar-powered water heaters are the newest sensations in the world of home appliances. With proper care, those will serve you for a long, long time.

When is the time to replace your water heater?

Over the previous sections, we discussed the average lifespans of various types of water heaters. Now, let’s find out when you should replace your heating system.

When your water heater is outdated

Like any other product, the water heaters also have their life coverage. As time passes on, the quality starts to depreciate. At a certain point, the heater is too old and should get replaced.

In the previous sections, we showed you approximately how long the water heaters continue to serve. So, if your heater exceeds that time, you should replace the current one with a new one.

When the output water is not warm enough

In some cases, the water you get from the heater is not hot enough. It can happen when there builds up layers of scales inside the tank.

One way to get around it is to flush the tank regularly. The flushing would prevent lime scales from building up inside. Also, installing a softener or filter ahead of the heater would work too.

Despite regular maintenance and flushing, if the water is not warm enough, then it’s time to replace the heater. You can also contact an expert to examine the heater beforehand.

When your water heater is leaking

Another sign to replace your water heater is when you see water leaking from the inside. It can happen due to various reasons. 

If the inlet valve is faulty, water will continue to leak from there. Also, if the temperature and pressure relief valves are malfunctioning, it will cause water to overflow.

Also, if the water pressure inside is inconsistent, it will deteriorate the heater over time. And, as a result, water might leak. So, you see, it is better to replace a leaking heater with a new one.

When you hear a fresh gurgling sound from inside the heater

As your heater ages, there will accumulate layers of scale on the tank surface. As you heat the water, the dissolved solids will start to react with water.

The reaction creates the noise, and you will find bubbles coming out of the heater. And, this is when you should invest in a new and modern water heater for your home.  

When muddy water comes out of your heater

In some cases, rusty and unclean water comes out from water heaters. It can happen when the heater is too old. It can also happen if the limescale is thick enough.

As the heaters are airtight, you can’t open it up and manually remove the scale. Hence, this is a clear indication that the heater needs to go. You can also contact a professional plumber.


To summarize it all, gas-powered water heaters will last from 8 to 10 years, while electric heaters can serve up to 10 to 15 years. Meanwhile, the solar heaters can survive up to 20 years at a stretch. 

You can extend the lifespan even further by carrying out regular maintenance. Frequent flushing will keep your heater healthy. Also, you have to replace the anode rod from time to time.

To prevent limescale from building up, you can go for a water softener or a RO water filter beforehand. It will significantly reduce the TDS of your water.

So, did you get the answer you were looking for? Or, you still have some queries. Leave those in the comments. Also, don’t forget to check out our blog with tones of helpful posts like this. 

Check it out here. Cheers!!!

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