Nicolette Forbes

By: Nicolette Forbes on August 11th, 2022

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How Long Do Tank-Style Water Heaters Last?

Standard Water Heaters

Are you in the market for a new tank-style water heater but are unsure how long it will last? Or do you already have a water heater but want to know if your water heater is at the end of its line?

Here at Monkey Wrench Plumbing, Heating & Air, we work with thousands of properties and homeowners to install, repair, and replace tank-style water heaters. Through that process, we have helped people just like you figure out how long their tank-style water heater will last and if choosing a tank-style water heater is the right option for them.+

In these next few sections, we are going to touch on:  

  • What a tank-style water heater is
  • What factors affect the lifespan of your tank-style water heater
  • How you can get the most out of your tank-style water heater

By the end of this article, you will know how to make your tank-style water heater stand the test of time.


What is a Tank-Style Water Heater?

Tank-style water heaters (also known as traditional water heaters, standard water heaters, or conventional water heaters) are the most common water heaters that are found in most homes and are used to heat the water used in your home. It’s typically a large cylinder that holds between 30-to-100 gallons of water, with the most common size for homes usually holding about 50 gallons of water. There are also three types of tank-style water heaters: gas, oil, and electric. 

A Rheem tank-style water heater.

Tank-style water heaters have a pilot light that heats up the water in the tank and continuously keeps it at a constant temperature. Once the hot water runs out from the tank, you will have to wait until the tank refills again to have access to hot water. Tank-style water heaters are mostly found in the garage, closet, or outdoors in a shed and have a life expectancy of around 10 years. Some of the more popular brands include Bradford White, AO Smith, and Rheem.


How Long Do Tank-Style Water Heaters Last?

Tank-style water heaters can last between 8 to 12 years on average. However, when used and maintained appropriately, it can even last for over 15 years. Tank-style water heaters have an anode rod that attracts corrosive elements in water, protecting its interior lining from corrosion.

After using the tank water heater for a long period of time (about ten years), the rod gets eaten away and no longer works effectively. The corrosive particles settle on the tank’s interior lining, including its bottom, and destroy it. At that point, your tank-style water heater may start leaking.


Signs It’s Time for Maintenance on Your Tankless Water Heater

It is recommended that you get maintenance performed on your tank-style water heater once a year, but how do you know it’s time for a checkup on your unit?

Well, there are a few ways to tell that it's time to get maintenance done on your tank-style water heater, whether it's an old or a new model, including:

  • Rumbling/Popcorn Noises

As your water heater ages, you will start to hear some strange noises coming from the machine whenever it heats the water. The banging sound may even become louder when you are constantly using a lot of hot water in your house. The main reason behind this is that sediment builds up at the bottom of the tank.

  • Buildup of Rust/Scale

If the water heater begins to rust or scale begins to build on your fixtures, that may be a sign that it’s almost breaking down. As your water heater ages, you will start to hear some strange noises coming from the machine whenever it heats the water. The rust may corrode the tank slowly until the water heater becomes entirely inefficient.

Additionally, the minerals in sediment can build up to scale and block your fixtures.

A showerhead with scale buildup. A showerhead with this much scale on it is a sign you should drain and flush your water heater.

  • Leaking Hot Water Tank

When your tank-style water heater leaks, it’s a clear sign that something is wrong, as the tank usually leaks when they begin to corrode from the inside. If untreated, the leakage may destroy some of your property.

  • Cold or Lukewarm Water

If the tank-style water heater begins to provide cold or lukewarm water instead of hot water, you need to start looking into replacing it. That may be a result of a broken heating element inside the tank.

Most manufacturers suggest that you flush or drain the water heater each year to reduce sediment buildup at the bottom of the tank. So if you’re dealing with these problems or it’s been a year since you last did maintenance on your water heater, it’s probably time to drain it. Unsure of how to drain your tank-style water heater? Check out this article here as we go in-depth about how a tank-style water heater is drained and how you can do it yourself.


Prolonging the Lifespan of Your Tank-Style Water Heater

We now know what to look for when it comes time to get maintenance done on your tank-style water heater, but now you must be wondering, “Well, how do I avoid all that and make my water heater last its full life?”

Prolonging the lifespan of your tank-style water heater relies on two main factors:

  • Maintenance

One of the top ways to get the most out of your tank-style water heater is to get yearly maintenance done on your unit. Lack of maintenance will cause early breakdowns regardless if you have water filtration or not. As mentioned before, maintenance such as draining your tank-style water heater is super important!

  •  Hard Water

Another way to prolong the life of your tank-style water heater is to avoid having hard water. If you are in an area that has hard water, like much of Los Angeles, it is highly recommended that you get water filtration to prevent early breakdowns. Not having water filtration with hard water can slowly start to cause a leak in the heat exchanger or early failure of parts inside the unit.

So while keeping up with maintenance is important, having water treatment serves as that extra protection for your tankless water heater. Read this article here to learn more about hard water and its effects on your tank-style water heater as well as other fixtures in your home. 


Long Live the Tank-Style Water Heater

So to recap, we touched on what a tank-style water heater is, how long it lasts, what signs to look for when it’s time to get maintenance done on your unit, and how to prolong its lifespan. With proper maintenance and water filtration, a tank-style water heater can last over 15 years. 

There are also key signs such as rumbling/popcorn noises, scale buildup, or a leaking water heater that show it is time for maintenance on your tank. The best way to prolong your tank-style water heater and avoid early breakdowns is to have yearly maintenance and install water filtration to filter out the hard water.

Want to continue your tank-style water heater knowledge? Click the link below to learn more about how to properly drain or flush your tank-style water heater.

Six Steps to Drain a Water Heater

We here at Monkey Wrench Plumbing, Heating & Air have been dedicated to giving you the most accurate information to make the best decision for yourself and your home since 2007. If you live in the Los Angeles area and have any further questions on tank-style water heaters or their maintenance, call us at 310-853-8690, and one of our call center representatives would be happy to help you.