Informational Guide

Should I Replace My Water Heater Before It Fails?

Should I replace my water heater before it fails? These are signs your water heater is starting to fail & when you should think about replacing it.

by Matt Moran

Let’s face it, water heaters are expensive, and you want to make sure you're getting the maximum from yours before you need to replace them. However, we also need to face facts and realize that even a great water heater will probably only last about 10 years, and pushing it much further can be a real mistake.  

As you start to reach the 10-year mark, you might start asking yourself, should I replace my water heater before it fails? This guide will help you spot the signs that it’s starting to fail and help you understand when you should replace it.  

All water heaters will fail eventually, but the last thing you want is for it to stop working suddenly. There are normally tell-tale signs that something is wrong, which can help you determine when it needs to be replaced:  

  • Lack Of Hot Water 
    Water coming out cold or lukewarm is a sign that there’s an issue with your heating coil or the thermostat. These will naturally break down over time, but eventually, they will fail entirely, and you'll probably need to replace the heater.  
  • Old Age  
    Water heaters aren’t designed to last forever, and age is one factor you need to keep an eye on. Your water heater is more likely to develop issues after about 10 years, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it will fail. However, if your water heater is properly maintained, it could last 20 years or more.  
  • Rust In Hot Water 
    The majority of hot water tanks are made from steel or other metals, so they are prone to rust or corrosion. This will impact the valves and can discolor the water coming from the heater. This is a clear sign that something’s wrong, and while you may be able to flush the water heater to solve it, you might need to replace it.  
  • Strange Noises  
    Strange noises in any part of your plumbing usually means an issue. If you notice a sudden change, then it could mean something has come loose internally, or the water isn’t flowing correctly. This may mean the water heater is about to fail or that parts need to be replaced.  
  • Clogged Drain Valve 
    A clogged drain valve can cause massive water heater issues, which typically happens when sediment has built up in the heater. All water has trace amounts of sediment, and over the years, it can gather and build up within the heater. If you notice your drain clogging over, it’s a sign that your water heater is older and may be starting to fail.  
  • Puddles Forming Near the Heater 
    A leaking tank means there is a major internal problem in your heater. Puddles around the heater indicate that a part is broken, and in most cases, you’ll need to replace the heater before all the water starts pouring out into your home.  
Signs Of A Failing Water Heater

Should I Replace My Water Heater Before It Fails? (4 Reasons Why You Should) 

If you’re starting to notice one or more of the signs above, you may need to start thinking about replacing the water heater. You can wait until it fails entirely, but there’s a lot of good reasons to replace the water heater before it gets to that point.

1. Avoid An Inconvenient Emergency Replacement 

You and your family need hot water every day for cleaning, and it just isn’t convenient to go without it. If your water heater breaks suddenly, then even an emergency replacement can take time to organize, which could mean cold showers for a few days. 

Emergency replacements can also be expensive, and plumbers may charge more to get to you quickly. Replacing your water heater before it fails can help you avoid this experience.  

2. Prevent Water Damage 

Water heaters fail in all different ways, and some can be catastrophic. Leaks can become more frequent, which can cause water damage, and sometimes when your water heater fails, the water can literally burst out and cause flooding. 

If this happens when you aren’t home, it can cause wide scale water damage, which can be costly to repair. Replacing your water heater early will lower the risk of this happening.  

3. Lower Your Utility Bills 

Appliances become more efficient year on year, and there are more energy-saving models available than ever before. Your water heater is one of the most expensive items to run in your home, and choosing the right one can save you a lot of money over the lifetime of the unit. Taking the opportunity to replace it before it fails can actually save you money in the long run. 

4. Have Ample Time To Research For Replacement Options 

Your water heater is one of the most important pieces of equipment in your home, and you must consider it an investment. There’s more variety than ever before, and taking the time to research the different makes, models, and designs can help you find the perfect water heater for you and your family. 

If your water heater completely fails, you won't have the luxury of time, but you can find the best water heater for you if you replace it early.  

Should I Replace My Water Heater Before It Fails

Tips To Extend The Life Of Your Hot Water Heater 

Every water heater is different, but you should expect it to last at least 10 years. However, if you maintain it properly, then you can help it to last a lot longer. Here are the top tips you should follow to help extend the life of your water heater and ultimately save you money:  

  • Check your water heater regularly 
    Your water heater should function without any input from you, but it pays to check it regularly. Opening it up every 6 months to check on the major parts is important so you can pick up issues early.  
  • Check your pressure valve 
    Water heaters come equipped with a temperature relief valve which helps to vent pressure or heat from the unit if it’s under too much strain. This is vital to help prevent explosions and to stop the heat from damaging the water heater. You can check this by turning the water heater off, testing the valve, and making sure some water drips out. If nothing comes out, you might need to replace it.  
  • Check the anode rod 
    Anode rods are used to attract minerals that occur naturally in your water. If left unchecked, these deposits will build up over time and can damage your water heater, so it’s essential your anode rod is functioning correctly. You should inspect this every year by turning off the tank and disconnecting the rod. If you see large amounts of mineral deposits on the rod, then you'll need to replace it within the water heater.  
  • Drain the water heater 
    It’s important to flush out the water heater periodically to keep it running efficiently. You can do this by switching it off, attaching a hose to the drain valve, and opening it up. This will allow all the old water and sediment to flow from the water heater and help keep it clean.  
  • Fall into a routine 
    The best thing you can do is get into a productive routine to maintain your water heater:  
  • Flush your water heater every 4 months 
  • Clean your water heater at least once a year 
  • Test your temperature relief valve every year  
  • Replace your anode rod every 2-5 years 
Tips To Extend The Life Of Your Hot Water Heater

People also Ask (FAQs)

Can a water heater last over 20 years? 

Your water heater will probably need to be replaced before it hits 20, but it is possible for them to last over 20 years if they’re installed correctly and properly maintained.  

Should you flush an old water heater? 

Yes. Flushing an old water heater helps to prevent sediment from building up. You should flush it once or twice a year, but it may be worth flushing it more often if you live in an area with hard water.  

How do you drain a water heater before replacing it? 

You can drain a water heater pretty easily by switching it off and connecting a hose to your drain valve. Remember to direct the hose to a safe location to avoid water going everywhere.  

Will vinegar damage a hot water heater? 

No, vinegar will not damage your water heater, and it can be an effective way to deal with sediment and rust buildup.  

How long does it take a new water heater to fill? 

It will take 30-40 minutes on average to fill a new water heater.  


Your water heater is one of the most important pieces of equipment in your home, and when it’s functioning correctly, you won't even notice it, but once it fails, it can be a nightmare.

Understanding when to replace it is key, and hopefully, this article has helped you know when it might be time to replace yours, and the benefits of doing it early.  

Matt is a freelance writer, English graduate, & keen traveler from the UK. As a specialist plumbing expert, he enjoys writing about everything there has to do with at-home plumbing products & related problems. When he isn’t writing, he’s usually drinking coffee or planning his next adventure. In his spare time, he also runs his own blog all about digital nomad life.