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Thread: Hot water heater, replace based on age alone?

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  1. #1
    DIY Junior Member Austin83's Avatar
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    May 2011

    Default Hot water heater, replace based on age alone?

    We have two 50 gallon hot water heaters (electric), one was replaced in 09, and the other one is a 03 model, and the 03 one just quit working today. We have a home warranty that came with this home, and I will use it to get it fixed, but is there a point where the heater should be replaced due to age and probability of failure? I plan on asking the plumber if there is any chance that it can be replaced instead of fixed just based on its age, but I'm not too optimistic since it isn't leaking (yet). Any thoughts or suggestions are appreciated.

  2. #2
    Test, Don't Guess! cacher_chick's Avatar
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    Jan 2008
    Land of Cheese


    We don't see many electric tanks, but when we do they are often over 20 years old. IMO, the tanks tend to last longer because they are not subjected to the heating/cooling cycles of a gas burner model.

    I tend to think of an appliance a bit like I do an automobile. There is a time to fix it and a time to replace it. It's not always clear when a good time to replace it might be, as the new stuff is generally not of the same quality of the older stuff.

  3. #3
    Plumber jimbo's Avatar
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    Aug 2004
    San Diego


    We could make a case to replace a gas WH on age. ( What age.....$64 question.. but it is debatable). Electrics...I would be hard pressed to recommend just on age.

  4. #4
    DIYer, not in the trades LLigetfa's Avatar
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    Feb 2011
    NW Ontario, Canada


    Quote Originally Posted by Austin83 View Post
    We have two 50 gallon hot water heaters (electric)....
    Why the pleonasm? If the water is already hot, it doesn't need to be heated. A gas cold water heater does not withstand age as well as an electric one. Good luck getting a replacement under the home warranty.

  5. #5
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer jadnashua's Avatar
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    Sep 2004
    New England


    They can last a long time. Some places, like in multi-level condominiums or maybe an apartment house, they may dicate changing them based on age to limit liability to others if one did leak. Depending on how catastropic it would be if it leaked, you may want to consider replacing it, but otherwise, often, you just wait until it starts to leak.
    Jim DeBruycker
    Important note - I'm not a pro
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer; Schluter 2.5-day Workshop Completed 2013, 2014

  6. #6
    In the Trades Gary Swart's Avatar
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    Sep 2004
    Yakima WA


    I was going to ask where I could buy a hot water heater, but I won't 'cause that would make me a smartass. Well, I am, so there. Just in fun

  7. #7
    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
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    Aug 2004
    Cave Creek, Arizona


    I only replace water heaters when the start leaking. Until that point there is no way to tell if they will last one week or ten years. As for the "If the water is already hot, it doesn't need to be heated", it is only "cold water" until its temperature is raised a couple of degrees, at that point it becomes "tepid" water, then warm water, and finally "hot water" but it can be "hot water" and still need heating, if you want "scalding water", or until it reaches the thermostat's setting so there is no way to tell WHAT kind of water it is heating without measuring its temperature. Therefore, you can call it any kind of water heater you want to, i.e., cold water heater, tepid water heater, warm water heat, hot water heater, or scalding water heater. If you have the last one you should be careful when you turn the water on at a faucet. In this area, a gas heater will USUALLY outlast an electric one by several years, but since it is a function of usage, there is no given as to when either will fail. EVERY supply house has a scrap yard full of gas AND electric heaters which have started leaking during the 6 year warranty period.
    Last edited by hj; 11-24-2012 at 08:13 AM.
    Licensed residential and commercial plumber

  8. #8
    DIY Member JMingrone's Avatar
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    Aug 2006


    I've had natural gas water heaters in both houses i've owned and the rental property I've owned for 34 years. Average life? 6 years. Mine are in the basement, so no real danger in just wait'n for the tenant to call saying there's no hot water. Last time I sprang for the 12 YEAR WARRANTY model. Guess what? 6 years. Ever think that manufacturer's make them all the same and that the premium you pay is just an "insurance premium"?

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