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Should I Replace my Water Heater Before it Fails?

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Do you have an aging water heater? Maybe you’ve noticed some signs that it’s no longer functioning like it used to.

Close up of residential hot water tank

Tankless water heaters typically have a lifespan of 20 years or more. Traditional water heaters with standing water tanks can last around 10 to 15 years before you notice signs of age. 

If you have an old model or one that’s malfunctioning, you may want to consider preemptive water heater replacement to save yourself time, money, and hassle. 

Understanding Water Heaters

When researching water heaters, you may have questions like “How long should a 50-gallon water heater last?” But in truth, lifespan is more about the type of water heater you have than the size. 

Water heaters typically come in two varieties. Traditional water heaters feature a large tank of standing water. This water is heated throughout the day so people can have hot water when they need it.

Tankless water heaters are a more modern option. These produce hot water almost instantly by heating it on-demand. Tankless water heaters use a gas burner or electric coils to generate the hot water. 

Tankless options boast a longer service life than their traditional counterparts and generally require less maintenance. A 15-year-old water heater may need replacement if it has a tank, but a tankless one should function well for several more years.

From old age to a buildup of sediment, there are many reasons either of these water heaters may fail. However, waiting until this happens could spell disaster for your home, which is why you should consider a preemptive replacement. 

Signs Your Water Heater Might Fail

There are a lot of things you may notice when your water heater heads towards failure. You are more likely to experience failure if your unit is older, but there are many other signs.

Sometimes, you’ll just need repairs, but serious issues call for replacement. For example, a 30-year-old water heater certainly needs to be replaced, but a younger one with a minor problem may be able to get by with some simple repairs. 

Some signs it’s time to replace your water heater include:

Strange noises

If you’re noticing unfamiliar noises coming from your water heater, it could mean it’s headed for failure. For example, popping or cracking noises can mean there’s sediment at the bottom of your tank that has hardened. When this happens, your heater has to work harder to produce the same amount of hot water, and this can inflate your bills. 

You can prevent a sediment buildup by having a professional plumber drain your tank at least once a year. However, if the sediment has already hardened, you’ll need to look at replacement before cracks and leaks ensue. 

Colored Water

If your water heater is failing, you may notice dirty water. For example, it may contain sandy or rusty debris. Once your water is contaminated, you’ll likely soon need replacement.

A Change in Water Temperature

Another thing you may notice when your water heater is failing is a change in your water temperature. If there is an issue with your gas burner or an electric coil, or if you have a sediment buildup, this can cause your water heater to stop reliably producing hot water. 

If you can’t get your water hot enough or if you’re experiencing inconsistent temperatures, this could mean it’s time to replace your unit. 

Visible Damage

Visible rust or cracks can mean it’s time for water heater repairs or replacement. A professional can sometimes repair these issues, but if your water heater is older, you’ll need replacement. 

For example, a 20-year-old water heater is nearing the end of its service life and will need to be replaced even if repairs are possible. If you notice damage, you should be asking yourself, “should I replace my 20-year-old water heater?”


If you already have leaks in your water heater, it’s time for a new system. A buildup of pressure inside the tank often causes leaks. This symptom could mean the relief valve is malfunctioning, or maybe the pressure or temperature is too high. Regardless, if you notice leaks, this is a sign you need immediate replacement. 

Benefits of Replacing Your Water Heater Before it Fails

Should you replace a water heater before it breaks? Maybe you’re wondering why you can’t just opt for repair. There are many reasons to replace water heaters before they fail. 

While repair is an option, replacement is best if you have an old water heater or one with serious issues. Here are some reasons to replace your water heater:

You’ll Have Time For Research

Both tankless and traditional water heaters have a long lifespan. This lifespan means it’s been a while since you last had to replace your unit. 

You might not know what you’re looking for, and waiting until the last minute means you’ll have to get something quickly with little time to research your options. You can choose between traditional or tankless water heaters, and there are different variables to consider for both varieties.

The perfect water heater for you depends on your home, so when you notice signs of failure or if your unit is aging, start researching your options. You’ll give yourself the time necessary to select the right water heater for your home based on your efficiency and performance demands. 

Prevent Damage

Another reason to replace your water heater before it fails is that you’ll prevent further damage to your home. A small leak may not seem like a cause for concern, but it can lead to flooding if your water heater is leaking. 

Water leaks generally mean the entire unit is failing, and repairs aren’t an option. If your water leaks go unchecked, this can spell disaster. Your tank could burst, leading to flooding in your home. 

Avoid Emergency Replacements

Understandably, you want to get the most out of your water heater. Water heaters are a large investment, and choosing to replace yours isn’t easy. 

However, if you continue to rely on a faulty or aging water heater, this could lead to an emergency replacement shortly. A failing water heater can stop working suddenly, leaving you in a tough spot. You may have to forgo hot showers for a couple of days while you wait for a professional. 

Having to replace your water heater without proper research and on an emergency timetable can be stressful. You may also have to pay more for emergency installation. 

However, if you replace your water heater before failure, this means you can get it installed on your schedule and not have to go without hot water. You’ll also have peace of mind with a new water heater because you know you can rely on it each day to produce the water you need. 

Save Money

Replacing your water heater before it fails can save you money in a few ways. For one thing, it’s likely to be more efficient. Specifically, tankless water heaters are more energy-efficient than their traditional counterparts, so switching to a tankless model may be something to consider. 

You’ll also save money on repairs by upgrading to a new water heater. As your unit ages, it’ll have an increased need for maintenance and repairs. These costs can add up over time, and replacing your unit may be more cost-effective in the long run. 

Water Heater Replacement in Northeast Ohio

If you need to replace your water heater, don’t waste time searching online for “water heater replacement near me.” Instead, reach out to the trusted professionals at Jennings Heating, Cooling, and Electric. 

Proudly serving Northeast Ohio since 1931, our team has the skills and know-how to recommend the perfect water heater for your home and complete your installation. We’re ready to answer any questions you may have, from “should I replace my hot water heater before it fails“ to “should I replace my 15-year-old water heater?”

Give us a call today! We preemptively replace water heaters as needed to keep your home running smoothly.

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