Can a Hot Water Heater Last 20 Years? (The Answer Might Shock You!)

How Long Can a Water Heater Last

It’s nearly impossible to function without a properly working water heater. You probably rarely—if ever—think about your water heater. However, it’s all you can think about when it stops working.

A bad water heater can wreak havoc as you try to do simple tasks, such as taking showers or doing dishes. When your heater goes bad, it seems like everything is a problem.

Sometimes, you can simply adjust the thermostat. Other times, you may need to replace the heating element.

Alternatively, you may simply need to learn how to drain a water heater. Either way, your water heater must function properly at all times.

Read on to learn whether a hot water heater can last 20 years.

How Long Does a Water Heater Last?

If you take care of your water heater, you can make sure that it lasts as long as possible. However, you also need to know when it’s time to buy a new one. Accordingly, you should know how to perform basic tasks such as how to flush your water heater or relight the pilot.

Still, some people aren’t comfortable working with their water heater. In this case, you need to connect with a plumbing specialist who can make sure your hot water heater stays in top shape.

You should at least know about your water heater pressure relief valve. If your water heater builds up excessive pressure, the relief valve will open to release the pressure.

If this device isn’t functioning correctly, your tank can build up too much pressure and explode. Accordingly, you should know how to drain a hot water heater to keep it functioning properly.

Whenever you work with your water heater, wear protective clothing. For instance, you should have safety gear such as gloves, goggles, and heavy clothing that will protect you from burns.

Also, you must turn off the electric and gas before extinguishing the pilot light. You must also shut off the cold water that’s running into your house.

How to Flush a Water Heater

Over time, sediment can affect the performance of your water heater. Sediment reduces your water heater’s energy efficiency. It can also clog your water lines.

You can increase the lifespan of your water heater and avoid problems by flushing the tank every time you check your water heater pressure relief valve.

To begin, connect the hose to the tank drain valve and point it somewhere where draining water won’t cause damage. With the pressure relief valve open, open the drain valve and allow the tank to drain completely.

Now, close the drain valve, disconnect the hose, and then close the relief valve. Open all the hot water fixtures and turn on the cold water to the tank.

Tip: When you see hot water coming out of the fixtures, close them. Now you can turn on the electricity and then the gas.

Reigniting the Pilot

To reignite the pilot, turn the gas valve to “On” and the control knob to “Pilot.” A light should blink when the water heater lights.

You can confirm that you’ve lit the pilot by viewing the small flame through the windowpane. Now, set the temperature to around 120-degrees.

Tip: You should always read the manufacturer’s directions for more details about lighting your pilot.

If you have a newer water heater, it may have a small pilot light that’s hard to see. If so, turn out the lights and look through the sight glass to make sure that you’ve lit the pilot.

When you first light your water heater, condensation may gather. Condensation is normal and will go away once your water heater warms up.

When Should I Replace My Water Heater?

On average, a water heater should last from eight to twelve years. The lifecycle of your water heater, however, will vary depending on the design of your water heater and where you live.

The lifecycle of your water heater will also vary depending on how well the plumber installed it as well as how well you take care of it. The quality of your water may also affect the lifespan of your water heater.

If a water heater is ten years or older, you should start thinking about replacing it. At the least, you should keep a closer eye on it. For example, if you see leaks around the base of your water heater, it’s probably time to replace it.

Before you retire your old heater, however, check for other problems. For instance, make sure a blown fuse or tripped breaker is not causing your water heater to malfunction.

Many people believe that they need a new water heater when the water isn’t as hot as they like it. However, a defective thermostat or heating element is often the culprit. A plumbing specialist can confirm this for you.

If your water isn’t hot enough, make sure that your water heater is getting power and reset the thermostat. You can also try insulating the hot water pipes, replacing the heater element or raising the temperature.

Tips for Choosing a New Water Heater

With proper care, you may stretch the life of your water heater by up to 20 years. However, there’s no guarantee.

You must determine the size of your new water heater by estimating the needs of your household. For instance, if there are four people in your family, you’ll need to think about how much hot water you need for showers, dishes, laundry, and other tasks.

For a family of four, water usage of 100 gallons a day isn’t unusual. However, that doesn’t mean that you need a 100-gallon water heater.

What you need to determine is the first-hour rating that you need for your new water heater. In other words, you’ll need to figure out how much hot water your water heater must deliver in an hour during peak usage. The U.S. Department of Energy’s website can provide you with more information on how to perform this calculation.

Finally, make sure that your new water heater will fit. Your water heater may have more height or width than your old one, so take measurements before you buy. Alternatively, you may choose to go with a tankless water heater that will take up much less space.

Tip: A bonus with tankless water heaters is that they do typically last about 20 years!

Hire a Pro to Make Sure the Job Gets Done Right

Plumb Time Plumbing & Drain Services can help you get the most life out of your water heater. With the right care, it is possible for your water heater to last for 20 years—or close to it.

Learning how to drain your water heater is an excellent start. However, not everyone is up to performing water heater maintenance. No worries, we have you covered.

Whether you need water heater maintenance or need a replacement, our experienced specialists can help you restore hot water to your home. We’ve helped homeowners in greater Columbia, South Carolina maintain their plumbing and drain systems for nearly three decades

Contact Plumb Time online or give us a call at (803) 988-9020. Manny and Tanya are standing by and waiting to answer your questions or help you schedule repairs.

20 comments… add one
  • John Monro Link Reply

    We have a Cascade Water Heater that is 45 years old & still working ………

  • Tom Link Reply

    Twenty-one years ago, I did my research and bought a Sears Kenmore Power Miser 9+ which uses the “self-cleaning rotoswirl,” which I thought at the time would help because we have VERY hard water where I live. Has delivered hot water ever since and I hate to admit that I have never drained it, although I should know better. I think this water heater used two 3800-watt heating elements as I remember. Although I know I have a 30-amp breaker, I just wonder if I will need to go with a heavier gauge wire if I buy a new unit with two 4500 or 5500 heating elements. Anyway, apparently, I found a good product back then…….too bad they don’t still make the same heater.

    • Steve Link Reply

      Tom, I totally agree. I have a Kenmore power miser 12+ water heater and it is 17 years old and still working great. I wish Kenmore still made it.

  • Matt Link Reply

    I have a 23 year old Ruud solar/electric water heater that has perfect glazed green glass inside with no damage to speak of.

  • Niagai aasa Link Reply

    Why is my water super hot when I turn it on , about 5-7 minutes on warm when I turn it down…ioe starts to get cold..after 8-9 minutes, it’s all cold..
    Have to time my shower

  • Tara Link Reply

    My Sentry water heater is almost 50 years old and still going strong. Not replacing this work horse anytime soon!


    We have a GE Profile SmartWater heater that is over 20 years old. No problems yet ! It has never been flushed OR serviced. It does say self cleaning on it. I guess we are lucky ?

    Dave in Georgia

  • Lee Link Reply

    I have always got 20 plus years out of a hot water heater. Some one must be buying a Chinese model to only get 8 to 12

  • Damian Link Reply

    My water heater from 1992 just hit 30 years old, but does appear to finally be failing and I will be replacing it in a week or two. I doubt anything made today will last even half that long, unfortunately.

    • Elsa Link Reply

      We are in the same situation I’m trying hard to find a good one but no luck

  • Melody M Affeldt Link Reply

    My water heater was put in in 2003, its 19 yrs old, lve lived here for 12 of those 19 yrs and havent had any problems to date. I hope lm not jinxing myself, but it doesnt leak, make noises or anything and delivers hot water as we need it. I was stressed because everything l’ve read says to replace them after 8-12 yrs. Welp, until this one blows or quits, lm keeping it. I will be having it looked at to see if it needs servicing, but its staying put until it dies…Thanks for the info about your times on good water heaters!!

  • Daniel Link Reply

    This 8-12 years thing feels very shiesty to me. Water heaters last way longer than that, at least in the region where I live. I think this time frame simply amounts to people trying to protect themselves from liability. I’ve had 4 homes in 39 years of home ownership, and I’ve only *had* to replace a water heater once, and that was in our first house which was a single wide mobile home, the heater was roughly 20 years old. I had 2 in my last house; 1 was 25 years old and still going strong when we sold, and the other 20 years old and working great. The house before that was a double wide with a 20+ year old WH in it, no problems at all, and our current house had a 30 year old water heater in it when we bought, that even though it was working great, we replaced it for a larger one. As a Realtor, I’ve seen dozens and dozens of water heaters called out in home inspections for being too old, even though they worked fine. I’m not buying this 8-12 years thing.

  • Elsa Link Reply

    I have a A -O smith for 26yrs an I haven’t drain it for 12years an it just started to give me an bad smell in the first floor bath. I was just going to replace the nod. But it’s been 26 yrs and I rather just replace the water heater..My only problems is getting one as good as the one I have, Any suggestion would be appreciated.. can’t seem to find the same one

  • james Link Reply

    I have a Ruud going on 27 years now – replaced heating element twice and anodes and safety valve – still working fine

  • Ralph Link Reply

    I have a GE Smartwater Heater 9 yr warranty 40 gal self cleaning model bought and installed about 1995/6. It’s 2023 now. A few months ago it started knocking. Read up and found it was most likely sediment build up. I drained it (first time), flow was slow and really no sediment came out. Knocking persists so I’m in the market for a new one now before the current one breaks down on me. Unfortunately, the big big stores only carry Rheem and AO Smith and I doubt they’ll be as good but this time around on the new one, I will regularly be replacing the anode rod and flushing it to try and get as much longevity as my old GE.

  • Mj Link Reply

    My US Craftmaster 40 gal lasted 26 years

  • Dale Link Reply

    I have a Kenmore power miser with rotoswirl 42 years old and has no drain. still working fine

  • PD Link Reply

    We have a Reliance water heater that turns 27 next month, manufactured Feb 1997, never had any issues at all from the time we’ve lived here or about 20 years, an absolute workhorse

  • Bob Yecke Link Reply

    I have an A. O. Smith which was installed in 1956 and is still running strong in 2024-68 years!

  • R Carpenter Link Reply

    I have a RUUDGLAS PACEMAKER PE40-2 that has been in my home since built it in 1992. We did have to replace the lower heat element about 10 years ago but other than that it has been perfect.
    I am getting ready to replace it but I am also curious how much life is still in it. The RUUDGLAS was installed Jan 92 and it is now Apr 2024 which is 32 years and 4 months with the unit still running strong.

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