When Should I Replace My Hot Water Heater?

This is the first article in a series of three about hot water heaters and water usage. This one outlines when you should consider replacing your hot water heater. The second will focus on how to determine how much hot water you use and what type and size of hot water heater you need. The last article will highlight the costs and pros and cons of traditional hot water heaters vs. tankless hot water heaters.

When the alarm blasts you awake at 5:30 or 6:00 am and you stumble head first into an icy cold shower, it’s probably time to consider replacing your home’s hot water heater.

Old Rusty Hot Water HeaterAnd when there’s a lake in your basement or garage that is fed by a waterfall from your heater tank, it’s probably time to consider replacing your home’s hot water heater.

But these are not ideal times to address your plumbing needs. So, aside from a full on catastrophe, when should homeowners contemplate replacing and upgrading their hot water system? Here are a few indicators that now might be the time.

Varying Temperatures

Water temperature variance can be an indication of an aging water heater. Is the water not as hot as it used to be? Does the water get hot enough for the dishwasher? If not, check the tank’s thermostat. If a low thermostat temperature is not the culprit, it may be time for a new tank.

Not Enough Hot Stuff

Do you have only enough hot water for one steamy shower, leaving the rest of your family dashing in and out of luke warm or cold water? This is a good sign that it may be time to talk with a professional.


If your water tank has ruptured creating a leak (or a lake), it is definitely time to consider your options. Do-it-yourselfers can attempt to diagnose and repair the leak or you can call a professional. Depending on the age and state-of repair, it may be more cost effective in the long run to replace the entire tank.

Rusty Water

A gush of rust colored water when you open the hot water faucet is a major indicator of an aging hot water heater. Most often, this rusty water is caused by years of sediment that have been deposited in your tank. When you turn on the hot water, the sediment is stirred up and comes out as a rusty, dirty, smelly gush. Draining and flushing sometimes help the situation, but when that doesn’t work, it is time to replace.

Old Age

Unlike fine wines and cheese and women, hot water heaters do not improve with age. Over time, the heaters can corrode, leak, fill with gunk, and just plain break down. Most conventional hot water heaters last between 10 and 15 years. If your’s is older and you are experiencing problems, you should consider finding a replacement.


Don’t forget when replacing a hot water to have the removal and disposal of the old heater and installation of the new one completed by a licensed contractor. Sediment build-up in the old heater can make them very heavy and they’ll either have electric or gas connections that will need to be modified.

Rebates and Tax Incentives

Be sure to check our Southwest Washington Energy Tax Rebates and Incentives and Oregon Energy Tax Rebates and Incentives pages for available rebates and incentives for upgrading to energy efficient water heaters.

Our next article will give you ideas to determine how much water you use and what type or size of water heater you need.

2 Trackback(s)

  1. Apr 15, 2010: from What Size Hot Water Heater Do I Need? | Fazzolari Custom Homes & Renovations
  2. Apr 21, 2010: from Review: Tankless or Traditional Hot Water Heaters Pros Cons | Fazzolari Custom Homes & Renovations

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