How will you know you need a new water heater before your existing water heater fails? Water heaters are the most frequently replaced large appliance in a household, with an average lifespan of 10 years. That figure can be even lower if you live in an area with hard water or if your heater doesn’t receive annual maintenance.

It’s easy to tell that you need a new water heater if your old unit dies and leaves you shivering in a cold shower. But the bad news could also be something far more costly, such as a tank rupture that pours hundreds of gallons of water into your home.

Is a new water heater in your immediate future? Here are some warning signs to be alert for:

  • Slow recovery time — If your old unit is taking longer then normal to heat a new tank of water, the buildup of sediment may be insulating the water from the heat of the burner. If sediment accumulation is new, a plumber may be able to flush the tank and restore proper operation. However, mineral sediment always hardens with time and, once it does, the only solution is to replace the water heater.
  • Higher water heating costs — If something’s causing your monthly gas expenses to rise and you’ve ruled out the furnace, the burner in the water heater may be running extended cycles to maintain proper temperature. Usually this is due to sediment accumulation that, per above, may require heater replacement to restore energy-efficiency and lower operating costs.
  • Leakage — If you see any signs of leakage from a water heater, it’s a red flag that must be investigated by a professional plumber ASAP. It could be a dribbling temperature and pressure relief valve which is replaceable by a plumber. However, any other form of tank leakage indicates a potentially serious problem that could cause extensive damage if the tank suddenly ruptures. In these cases, new water heater is the only recourse