Make a plan to replace your water heater now, so you’re not blindsided by a busted appliance later. After all, you have a lot to figure out, including how much longer you can expect your current system to last and what type of water heater to replace it with.

Here’s What You Need to Know Before Replacing Your Water Heater

Determine the Water Heater’s Age

With routine maintenance, a water heater should last between 10 and 15 years. Knowing how much useful life your water heater has left can help you budget and plan for a timely replacement. Unfortunately, the unit’s manufacturing date isn’t always easy to decipher. How manufacturers display this information varies from brand to brand, but almost all of them incorporate the date into the serial number. So, let’s start there:

  • Find the rating plate: The rating plate contains the water heater’s technical specifications — part numbers, British thermal units (BTUs), capacity, and most importantly, the serial number. The rating plate is typically located near the warning label and energy guide on the tank’s cabinet.
  • Decode the serial number: The serial number is essentially the water heater’s fingerprint. Every appliance has one, and every number is unique. The sequence of numbers and letters can be interpreted to determine where and when the appliance was made. Depending on the brand, the first four digits in the serial number can tell you when the unit rolled off the assembly line. Let’s take a serial number reading 1015A139967. The first four numbers, 1015, likely mean it was made in October 2015.

If only it were always that simple. Serial numbers on a Bradford White water heater will be more difficult to decode. Serial numbers on these appliances begin with letters representing the year and month of manufacture, with ‘A’ representing 1984 and ‘B’ representing 1985, and so on. These letters rotate every 20 years, so it can be tricky to determine if the unit was made in 1984 or 2004. Consult Brandford White’s handy reference for clarification.

Consider Your Water Heater’s Performance

There are several very obvious red flags that your water heater is on its last leg.

Rusty water: If the cold water is running clean, but the hot water has a rusty tint, your water heater is at fault. Built-up sediment in the tank or a deteriorating glass jacket, which separates the water from the tank’s outer wall, could be the cause.

No hot water: The heating element inside the tank may have burned out, or it’s entirely coated by sediment. A faulty thermostat or thermal switch could also be the cause.

Odd noises: A water heater should operate pretty much soundlessly. Popping or knocking sounds could be due to pressure breaking through the sediment layer at the tank’s bottom.

Leaks: A leak at the bottom of the tank could be a sign of corrosion. Have a plumber inspect it right away.

Decide What Type of Water Heater You Want

Now, the fun part. Ultimately, your decision boils down to replacing your tank water heater with a similar model or upgrading to a tankless unit. Weigh both options carefully.

Tankless pros: If running out of hot water is a frequent frustration in your household, a tankless water heater will provide an endless supply. There are also serious cost savings to consider. Unlike a traditional storage tank, a demand-type water heater doesn’t keep warm water on standby. It saves energy by supplying hot water only when you need it. That makes tankless units up to 34% more efficient. You can save even more energy by installing a unit at each hot water outlet.

Tankless cons: These units cost more upfront, and, contrary to popular belief, they do not provide hot water immediately. You’ll wait just as long — if not longer — for hot water to reach your showerhead.

Storage tank pros: The conventional storage tank is still popular for a reason. It’s cheaper, easy to install, and every plumber knows how to fix and maintain one. Plus, replacement parts are inexpensive and easy to come by.

Storage tank cons: Compared to a tankless unit, a storage water heater is less efficient. It also has a shorter lifespan: 10 to 15 years compared to a tankless unit’s 15 to 20 years.

Factor in Size

If you decide to go with a conventional storage unit, consider what size you’ll need.

If hot water is in short supply around your house, a larger tank should solve the problem. You can estimate tank size based on the number of people in your household:

  • 1 to 2 people: 23 to 36 gallons
  • Up to 4: 36 to 46 gallons
  • Up to 5: 46 to 56 gallons
  • 5 or more: Over 56 gallons — add 10 gallons per additional person

Turn to the Rockwall Area Water Heater Experts

Investing in a quality water heater will pay off for years to come in reliable comfort and energy savings. Sunrise Plumbing provides expert water heater replacements throughout Rockwall County. To schedule your appointment, call (469) 378-8731.

Sunrise Plumbing

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