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When to Replace a Water Heater

Easy tips to determine if your water heater can be repaired or needs to be replaced


There are several clear signs that your hot water heater is no longer functioning properly. Some issues can be repaired. Other problems indicate a need for replacement. This guide will teach you how to assess your hot water heater and respond accordingly.

Water Heater Lifespan
Water heater lifespan

If your water tank is more than 10 years old, it may be time to consider replacement options.

With proper maintenance, a gas water heater tank should last between eight to 12 years. An electric tank typically offers up to 15 years of quality use, while the life expectancy of tankless electric water heaters can surpass 20 years.

Check your warranty for the most accurate timelines.

Care and Maintenance History
Care and maintenance history

Proper maintenance is vital to preserving and extending the life of any water heater. Without it, you may have to repair or replace your unit sooner. To ensure optimal efficiency, your tank should be drained, flushed and cleaned at least once a year. For residents in areas with hard water, consider having it serviced every six months.

Tankless water heaters require less maintenance than tank varieties. They are typically able to operate at full power for four to five years. If you do notice a decrease in performance, turn it off and flush it with water and white vinegar for 60 minutes. This helps remove any sediment buildup caused by lime and mineral deposits. 

See our Water Heater Maintenance Guide for more step-by-step instructions.

Signs of Wear
Signs of wear

A common sign of trouble with any water heater is often a higher utility bill. If your unit is expending extra energy to provide the same amount of hot water, it’s time to look for the following symptoms:

• Leaks

If your water heater is leaking, it must be replaced immediately. Leaks are usually the result of pressure buildup inside the tank. This happens when the water pressure or temperature is too high, or when the unit’s relief valve is not working properly. Neglecting a leak can lead to a tank explosion. 

Signs of leaks include moisture or puddles around the water heater’s base and water corrosion on the side of your tank. Contact a trusted professional immediately if you notice these warning signs.

• Knocking Noises

Loud noises are an indication of sediment buildup. As sediment hardens, it can move around the tank and cause knocking, rumbling and gurgling sounds. To preserve your water heater and prevent premature deterioration, have it flushed regularly to remove any deposits from the tank’s heating elements.

• Rusty, Cloudy or Cold Water

Water discoloration is a clear sign your unit is underperforming. Rust-colored water, or water with a metallic odor, can mean a few things. Either the sacrificial anode rod needs to be replaced or the tank itself is beginning to rust, often due to corrosion at the steel lining. A corroded tank must be replaced as soon as possible.

Cloudy water often indicates a sediment buildup inside the tank, and if the water remains cold, a heating element may be broken.

When Repairs are Possible
When repairs are possible

Water heaters can occasionally be repaired by replacing a few key elements. Replaceable parts include:

• Burner assembly
• Heating elements
• Valves
• Thermostats
• Thermocouples
• Igniters
• Motors
You may be able to REPAIR your water heater if: 
• The unit is less than ten years old
• A replaceable part is failing

You should consider REPLACING your water heater if:
• The unit is more than ten years old
• It has not been properly maintained
• It is showing signs of wear listed above

The Home Depot offers a variety of water heater parts and accessories, for both electric and gas units. Homeowners can install these elements themselves or reach out to our trusted professionals for help. We repair all makes and models of water heaters, regardless of where you purchased yours.

The Home Depot Purchase Protection Plan

If you’re still unsure whether you can repair your unit or need to have it replaced, submit your information here or give us a call at 800-HOME-DEPOT. Our team will discuss your needs, schedule a consultation and confirm the diagnostic fee. At your in-home appointment, we’ll conduct a thorough inspection of your system to identify the cause of the issue. You will then be provided a quote, and your repair can be performed on the spot unless special parts are required.

If you choose to replace your water heater instead, we’ll apply the cost of your diagnostic visit toward the purchase of your water heater.
To extend your hot water heater’s labor warranty, sign up for The Home Depot’s Purchase Protection Plan. It offers leak protection from day one, 24/7 service and free removal and replacement for water heater tanks. Read the FAQ about our Water Heater Plans for full details.