It may not be the most exciting answer, but the truth is that it depends!
While a water heater may not be as glamorous as a sports car or luxury vacation, it can still bring a sense of satisfaction. Starting the day with a hot shower can set the tone for the rest of the day, and the quality of that experience can make all the difference.
After all, who wouldn't prefer to start their day on a positive note?
Facts and Circumstances:
1. Catastrophic failure! If the water heater has just exploded, causing extensive flooding in your basement and throughout your house, it is evident that you need to replace it. The decision has been made for you, and now you have the added task of cleaning up the significant mess.
2. Leaking, Dripping or Puddling If you notice your water heater leaking from areas other than the pipe that enters or exits the heater, it indicates that the next step is catastrophic failure, and you should replace it as soon as possible. To prevent flooding, you should immediately shut off the supply valve. This decision has been made for you, and prompt action is necessary to limit the damage caused by the leaking water.
3. It’s Just Old If your water heater hasn’t been properly maintained, is 10-15 years old then it has already exceeded it’s expected life span and you should consider replacing your water heater, before catastrophic failure or a leak. It’s always better to prevent a problem than clean one up later. This is one time when the old saying, “If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it” can lead to much bigger problems. I know it's hard to spend money to replace something that is working just fine but, if you ever experienced catastrophic failure in the past, you will be replacing your tank before it fails all over the floor.
4. Water heaters last 7-10 years Today’s water heaters are all designed to last at least 6 years just in time to clear the warranty. I have seen water heaters fail sooner for a number of reasons which can sometimes be detected during annual maintenance. Annual maintenance can extend the life of your heater if performed regularly. The typical tank style water heater lasts 7-10 years. There are a number of things that can fail along the way and depending on the condition and care of the tank may or may not be worth fixing. If the repair is relatively low compared to the cost of a new tank by all means fix it. If you are about to spend a lot of money to repair a tank that has not been properly maintained in year 10, you could be wasting your money.
5. Pay me now or pay me later Proper annual maintenance is money well spent. Regular maintenance can extend the life of your tank water heater as well as spot future potential problems which can end in catastrophic failure.
6. Extended Life It is possible to extend the life of your current tank water heater. If you are performing or having a professional perform the annual maintenance your current system will last longer. If you have a professional change the sacrificial anode in year 5 it like extending the life of your tank with another 5-year warranty. The sacrificial anode inside the tank is why the manufacturer is certain your tank will not rust through before the 6-year warranty ends. Rust never sleeps! I can’t stress enough how important it is to change the anode in year 5 to postpone a tank rusting through after 6 years.
7. Equipment satisfaction If your current tank is undersized for your family's lifestyle or you are not enjoying the performance of your hot water system. You should consider a more appropriate way to make hot water to better serve the needs of you family. A professional can advise you of different options to improve your hot water experience.
8. Economics Sometimes you just have to weigh the economics of the situation. Most repairs are relatively small compared to the cost of a replacement so, it may make sense to just repair what you have. Now that you have a better understanding of the decision factors for some people it may come down to dollars and sense. Cost of replacement verses cost of repair verses lifetime and condition of the existing water heater.