Talk about a loaded question. The reason is that there are so many variables that play a role in the lifespan of your water heater.
The following items will determine how long your water heater will last:
Regardless of the quality or type of the water heater you own (gas or electric, tank or tankless), there is no criteria more important than the characteristics of the water you are heating.
If you live in University Park or Crete, and you do not treat your water (meaning softening or Reverse Osmosis), your tank or tankless gas heater could fail in just a few years. If you treat the water you can extend that to a much higher length of time, depending on the initial quality of the water heater.
If you live in Schererville or Dyer and are on city water, you can get the normal expected lifetime out your heater without treating the water you are heating, because the quality of the water delivered to your home is so much better.
Water quality will affect all your other plumbing in your home also so regardless of its effect on your water heater, it’s a good idea to treat your water if you live in an area where the quality is questionable.
Water temperature plays an important role in the lifespan of your water heater. The hotter you keep your water tank, the less life the heater will have. So there’s an inverse relationship (for you math folks out there)— the hotter the water the shorter the lifespan.
This is due to the stresses placed on the glass lining in the heater when the heater cools down (as cold water enters) and heats up (when the tank turns on and recovers) heating up the cold water that came into the tank while you were using the hot water.
All that expansion and contraction wears on the protective lining over time eventually causing microscopic cracks to form. Once the water gets through those cracks and gets to the steel tank it’s just a matter of a short time until you wake up to the sight of running water coming from the water heater in your utility space.
The last item of concern is the incoming water temp entering the water heater tank. If we have an extreme and prolonged cold weather event such as a week or more of -15 degree temps, the water coming into your home can fall into the low 30’s.
When that extremely low temp hits that 115 degree tank sidewall it creates a thermal shock which can accelerate the wear and tear on the lining, exposing the steel to water much sooner than say a water tank installed on the west coast in a more temperate climate with a narrower range of water temps coming into the tank.
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Another consideration is the number of cycles the water heater goes through every day.
A cycle is the process of delivering a quantity of hot water for a shower or washing the dishes, then reheating the water to get ready for the next cycle.
A home with 6 family members is going to have a lot more cycles than a home with a retired couple. The big family will do laundry a lot more often, take a lot more showers and probably run the dishwasher one or more times daily. The couple will only cycle through 2 showers daily and may not have to run the dishwasher for 2 or 3 days at a time.
While laundry may be a weekly thing for the couple, they might only do 1 small load while the family is moving along 4 large loads every Saturday.
Hot water return system
While we’re talking about cycles, another issue related to that is the presence, or lack of, a hot water return system in the home.
A home without a return where you have to run a faucet for minutes at a time can cause the heater to have to turn back on just to replace the large amount of hot water wasted because of the time it took to get to the end user.
In a home with a return or recirculation system, there is relatively instantaneous hot water at the faucet resulting in less cold water introduction to the tank and a more consistent tank temperature which in turn reduces the stress on the tank.
Quality of the Heater
The last issue affecting lifespan is the quality of the heater in question. Suffice to say that when it comes to longevity, the better the guarantee on the heater, the better the quality. The better the quality the longer the expected lifespan.
At Yes! Plumbing we provide proprietary tank type gas heaters with a choice of 6 year, 8 Year, 10 Year and lifetime guarantees.
Tankless heaters have a much longer expected lifespan than tank type heaters as they are more repairable and the best types utilize higher quality stainless steel heat exchangers which eliminate the problem with glass coatings that plague the tank type heaters.
At Yes! Plumbing all of our tankless heaters utilize stainless steel (not copper) heat exchangers.
Given the number of variables that can affect the lifespan of a tank type heater, we can only provide a range.
The tank heaters operating under the worst of conditions can be expected to last around 8 years. The heaters operating under the best conditions can last 12 years or more.
The expected lifespan of the tankless heaters we install at Yes! Plumbing is somewhere in the neighborhood of 22-25 years. The reason we can be so specific is that we only install these heaters when the operating conditions are known to be advantageous to the operation of a tankless heater. If your home won’t benefit from a tankless installation, we won’t even bring it up.
Call Yes! Plumbing for all your hot water needs. We are certified water heater experts. It will be our pleasure to be of service.