Gas Water Heater Lifespan: Factors Affecting Durability in Hershey, PA

There is a wide variety of types and models of water heaters available, and which unit you choose will almost always play a major role in determining how long it will last. Most gas storage tank water heaters will last for somewhere between eight and 12 years, but some units can potentially last for 20 years or more under the right conditions. Many factors can directly impact the longevity, or lifespan, of your unit. Knowing what these factors are is important in helping you choose the best water heater for your home and also ensuring that you get the most out of your unit. 

Manufacturing Quality

As you’d expect, some brands and models of gas water heaters are invariably more well-built and of a higher quality than others. Higher-efficiency water heaters will typically last longer than units with a lower efficiency rating. This is simply because they heat more quickly and won’t have to run as long, which means that they suffer less wear and tear. How well-insulated the tank is also makes a major difference since those units will retain heat better and thus not have to turn on and reheat as often. 

The construction of the tank is another important factor. Most gas water heater tanks are made of carbon steel that has a protective glass or porcelain enamel coating that helps prevent the steel from corroding. Some units have a stainless steel tank instead. While stainless steel water heaters are more expensive, they tend to last longer since stainless steel is immune to corrosion, unlike carbon steel. Over time, minerals can react and eat away at the coating in a carbon steel tank. When this happens, the steel will start to corrode, and the tank may eventually develop a leak. 

The only issue with stainless steel is that it has to be welded to ensure the tank is watertight. If you choose a lower-quality stainless steel unit, it will likely fail sooner than a high-quality unit with a coated carbon steel tank. This is because the welds in a stainless steel tank can degrade more quickly if they’re not done properly and if the tank isn’t built solidly. 

Studies have shown that the length of a water heater’s warranty almost always corresponds with its quality and durability. The longer the unit’s manufacturer’s warranty is, the longer you can generally expect it to last. Some less expensive units only have a six-year warranty, which is a good indication that the unit isn’t as well constructed or as durable. You can also find units that have up to a 12-year warranty. Units with a longer warranty tend to be more expensive, but they are typically worth the higher cost since they tend to be more energy efficient and should last longer. 

Installation Quality and Location

The location of your water heater and whether it was installed properly also play a major role in how long you can expect it to last. It is especially important that gas water heaters are in a well-ventilated area and that the exhaust vent is installed correctly. Ensuring that the unit is properly ventilated is important for preventing carbon monoxide build-up. Poor ventilation can also shorten a water heater’s lifespan, which is why you should always hire a licensed plumber to install your water heater.   

Usage and Temperature

How much use your water heater gets will also impact how long it lasts. If your family uses lots of hot water daily, the unit must be large enough to meet your needs. If you choose too small of a unit, it will need to run much more often and not last nearly as long. 

The temperature that you keep your water heater set at will also play a role in its lifespan. This is especially true for units with a glass- or enamel-coated tank, as higher temperatures will cause the coating to degrade more quickly. You should always keep your water heater set to at least 120 degrees to prevent bacterial growth. If you set the unit to a higher temperature, say 140 degrees, it likely won’t last as long since it will need to run longer to heat the water to that higher temperature. 

Water Quality and Hardness

Hard water and acidity will also impact the life of a water heater. Hard water contains a higher concentration of dissolved minerals, and all the minerals will speed up how fast the coating degrades and will cause the tank to corrode more quickly. Hard water also causes sediment to build up inside the tank quickly, which will also shorten a water heater’s lifespan if it isn’t flushed regularly. In areas with hard water or where the water is more acidic, a unit with a stainless steel tank will usually be the better option and last longer since the tank won’t ever corrode.  

Flushing, Maintenance and Repairs

While all the above factors are important, the biggest factors are usually how well-maintained your water heater is and whether you get any necessary repairs taken care of promptly. The primary reason that most water heaters fail is simply neglect and a lack of preventative maintenance. If your water heater isn’t properly maintained or has any issues that prevent it from working effectively, it will have to work harder. This means the wear and tear will be increased, and the unit will likely have a shortened lifespan. The lifespan of your water heater could easily be cut in half if you don’t have it professionally inspected and maintained yearly. 

One of the most important maintenance tasks is flushing the water heater to remove all the sediment from the tank. Flushing is something that should be done at least once or twice a year depending on how hard your water is. Sediment build-up is the No. 1 reason that most water heaters fail prematurely. When there is lots of sediment in the tank, it will absorb lots of heat from the burner. As a result, the unit will heat much more slowly and thus have longer heating cycles and suffer more wear and tear. As the sediment absorbs heat, hot spots can also form that will cause the steel to weaken and make the tank corrode more quickly. 

If you have a unit with a lined steel tank, you should have a plumber check the condition of the anode rod yearly. The anode rod will normally need to be replaced every four to five years, but you may need to replace it more often if your family uses lots of hot water or your home has hard water. 

An anode rod is a steel wire or cable that is coated in a more reactive metal, usually aluminum, magnesium, or zinc, and it works to prevent the steel tank from corroding as quickly by essentially sacrificing itself. Instead of the minerals reacting with and corroding the tank, the minerals corrode the metal coating on the rod. This is why the rod needs to be replaced every few years as, eventually, the coating will be completely eaten away, and the minerals in the water will start to corrode the tank itself. 

As a full-service plumbing company, Ready & Able Plumbing, Heating & Air is the one to trust if you need any water heater maintenance, repair or installation services in Hershey or the Harrisburg area. Our team is also ready to help with all your other plumbing as well as heating and air conditioning needs. For more information on the importance of water heater maintenance or to learn more about your options for a replacement water heater, give us a call today.

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