Nicolette Forbes

By: Nicolette Forbes on August 15th, 2022

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5 Signs It's Time To Replace Your Water Heater

Standard Water Heaters

Having a happy and healthy tank-style water heater can be a breeze, but what happens when things start to go south? Do you know what signs to look out for when it’s time to replace your water heater? 

Knowing the issues that could arise with a tank-style water heater and knowing when to address them is key to getting the most out of your water heater. Water heaters are an investment, and whether you are getting ready to buy one or already have one, we here at Monkey Wrench Plumbing, Heating & Air, want to make sure you are prepared for anything, including when it’s time to consider replacing your water heater.

In this article, we will walk you through how a tank-style water heater works and signs that tell you when it’s time to replace your water heater. Let’s get started!


What is a Tank-Style Water Heater? How Does It Work?

Tank-style water heaters (also known as traditional water heaters, standard water heaters, or conventional water heaters) are traditional 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 are mostly found in the garage, closet, or outdoors in a shed and have a life expectancy of around 10 years. But how do they work?

The body (or barrel) of the tank is attached to pipes in your home that bring cold water out and hot water in, right? Well, through those pipes, cold water enters the bottom of the tank and is heated by either a gas flame below the tank or electricity inside the tank. The water heater then heats the water to the temperature that you have pre-set on your thermostat. With all tank-style water heaters, 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.

 A diagram showing how a tank-style water heater works.


Signs It’s Time to Replace Your Water Heater

All good things must come to an end, and at some point, you will need to replace your water heater when it can no longer do the job it’s supposed to. At first, you’ll think about having the water heater repaired, but there are signs to watch for that will help you identify when to replace the water heater in your home.



Nothing lasts forever, and that phrase rings true when it comes to water heaters. Most tank-style water heaters can last anywhere between 7 to 10 years without water filtration, so if your water heater is around that age, it may be time for a replacement. Even if your water heater is working properly, breakdowns caused by old age are right around the corner, so it is recommended that you get ahead with getting a new water heater.

Unsure of how old your water heater is? You can always check the serial number on the water heater, as it typically includes a manufacturing date. In most cases, the first letter of the serial number will indicate the month it was manufactured.

A tank water heater with a serial number that tells how old the water heater is.


Discolored Water

If you spot rusty water coming from the heater, this is usually a clear indication that the inside of your tank is rusting due to corrosion. When corrosion happens, rust builds and can leak into your water supply. This leads to discolored water coming out of the faucets. Now, before you jump to conclusions about the water heater, we recommend that you run cold tap water for a few minutes.

If that water is also rusty, it may mean the issue is within the pipes, not the heater. Additionally, sometimes water may be cloudy or sandy, caused by a buildup of sediment in the heater tank. You can fix this issue by draining the tank and clearing the sediment. However, if the water continues to run sandy or cloudy, you should consider replacing your water heater.

Another way to address cloudy water coming from your water heater (outside of replacing your water heater) is by draining your tank. You can either call a certified technician to drain your water heater, or you can do it yourself.

Want to try draining your water heater? Check out this article as we go through the steps on how to properly drain your water heater.


Making Noise

If your water heater sounds like there might be a thunderstorm in your basement or a stampede of safari animals, chances are something is going on with your water heater. As your tank ages, residue starts to build on the bottom. When the sediment heats up, it eventually hardens and will bang against the heater, leaving you with a loud rumbling noise or popping sound, similar to popcorn. With the banging noises comes leaking, so we recommend you replace your heater as soon as you start to hear unusual sounds.

And speaking of leaking…



At the end of their life span, water heaters tend to leak around the floor of the tank. Water leaks are often the result of expansions to the metal in the tank. These expansions occur over time as the inner–body of the tank is exposed to thousands upon thousands of heating cycles every time you use hot water. 

While a small leak isn't an emergency, it's something that should be addressed quickly to avoid larger leaks, more damage to your water heater, or damage to your home.

A tank-style water heater starting to rust and leaking from the bottom.


No Hot Water

A clear indication of needing a new water heater is if you run the faucets in your shower, but no hot water comes out. Now, this could be that your pilot light went out, which can be an easy fix. Check out this article here on how to relight your pilot light. But it could also indicate that there could be issues with your thermostat or the heating element in your water heater.

While you can replace those components in your water heater, it may be hard finding all the right parts for older models. Thus, making it easier to replace your tank-style water heater.


To Replace or Not To Replace? That Is The Question

Having a water heater is an investment and knowing when to replace your water heater is key to keeping that hot water flowing in your home. So if your tank is leaking, old, or making a noise like it is the Fourth of July, it may be a good idea to start looking for a new water heater. 

Want to continue your tank-style water heater knowledge? Read this article here to understand how long a water heater lasts and what affects the lifespan of your tank.

Tank-style water heaters will eventually break down, but it does not have to be a hassle to handle, and we here at Monkey Wrench Plumbing, Heating & Air want to make sure that you are prepared for any of the problems that may arise. So if you live in the Los Angeles area and are experiencing any of these problems or any problems with your tank-style water heater, call us at (310) 853-8690. Or you can always request an appointment by clicking the 'Book' button below or visiting our service page.