The Surefire Sign You Need to Replace Your Tank Water Heater

Water Heater ReplacementThink your water heater is ready for a watery grave?

Well, there’s only one surefire way to know: You need to replace your water heater if the tank is leaking, which means it’s deteriorating.  

In the rest of this article, we want to:

  • Explain why a leaky tank is dangerous and potentially costly
  • Show you secondary signs that the water heater needs replacing
  • Give you tips on extending the life of your water heater

Why a water heater tank leak is dangerous

A plumber can repair any part of a water heater—except the tank itself. Once it spring a leaks, that means you need a new one. If left alone, the water heater will eventually burst.

And, trust us, you don’t want that. According to, “Water heater failures cost an average of $4,444 per incident after the deductible was paid.”

Exception: You may think you have a leak in the tank because you see water around the water heater or in it’s pan. But that could be caused by something else, including:

  • Thermostat and Pressure (T&P) relief valve is opening — This safety valve opens to relieve your water heater of pressure. In this case, you need to lower the pressure in the tank. One way to do that is to keep the temperature around 120 to 125 degrees. Look for the adjustable temperature knob on your water heater.
  • Weakened seals — As the water heater gets older, seals about the T&P valve or the drain valve weaken and water starts leaking out. A plumber can fix this issue no problem. If the leak is coming from the T&P valve, you need to contact a plumber ASAP because your water heater is in danger of exploding. 

Water heater warning label
Source: Installation Instruction for Temperature and Pressure Valve

Secondary signs you need a new water heater

While a leaky tank means, “You MUST replace the water heater now!”, these next 2 signs mean, “You may want to keep an eye on your water heater and start shopping around for a new one.”

It’s 10 to 15 years old
That’s the average range of a tank water heater, but some live much longer—and shorter—than that. Expect your water heater to live shorter than 10 years if it wasn’t properly maintained (see how to do that below.)

It needs repairs frequently
Have you had the water heater repaired several times in the last few months—or even weeks?  Then that’s a telltale sign that you should consider looking for a new water heater. 

How to extend the life of your water heater

Flush the water heater annually— Over time, sediment (loose minerals) settles in the tank, forming a layer of insulation between the heating element and water, causing the burner to run longer to heat your water. This constant heating can weaken your steel tank and lead to a leak. 

How do you know if your tank has sediment? Listen for a popping noise from the tank when it’s heating the water. But, beware, if your water heater has reached this stage the sediment may be solidified and can’t be flushed out.

Change the anode rod every 4 to 5 years— This rod sacrifices itself to protect your water heater tank from rust. Once the rod has deteriorated, you or a professional needs to replace it. 

 Flip up the T&P relief valve twice a year— Look for the T&P valve on the top or side of the water heater and test it twice a year, ensuring that it works properly to depressurize the tank.

Water heater diagram

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