Many homeowners have no idea how old their hot water heater is, nor is it at the top of anyone’s mind when it comes to providing routine maintenance for your home appliances. However, when a hot water heater lets go and floods your home, it can be the most destructive type of appliance failure you can imagine.

Without a safety mechanism, a water heater will leak continuously and allow water to flow from the supply pipe, through the water heater and into your basement until someone manually shuts off the supply valve to the water heater. If you are away when your water heater lets go, who knows how much water will be in your basement when you get back.

A water heaters lifespan depends on several factors. Water quality, water temperature and how often maintenance is provided, will contribute to the life expectancy of your water heater. The more sediment contained in the water that enters the hot water heater, the more damage it can do to your unit.

It is easy to identify the age of your water heater. Every water heater has a label which states the manufacturer, the model number and serial number of the heater. The model number provides information about the type of hot water heater you have, and the warranty period the manufacturer provided with your unit. The serial number tells the age of your water heater.

Generally, most water heaters that are more than 10 years old should be on your radar for replacement. If your water heater is 15 years or older, consider yourself lucky and begin the replacement process, as most water heaters are not designed to last that long. Error on the side of caution and consider replacing your water heater earlier than usual if your water heater is located in a closet near a finished area of your home.

There are safeguards that can be used to diminish the amount of damage should your water heater leak. A drain pan installed under your water heater, with an automatic shut off mechanism in the pan will shut down water supply to your hot water heater should your water heater start to leak. If your hot water heater is located on an upper floor, a drain plan with a direct drain line connection should be used so that any water seeping from your hot water heater can be redirected safely, and not cause damage to your home below.

There are a few signs that your water heater is aging, and on its last leg:

-The water flowing from your faucet looks rusty or not as clean as it used to be. This is a sign that your water heater is rusting away on the inside.

-The temperature of your hot water has diminished. This is a sign that your water heater may have sediment build up, or that the heating element could be faulty.

-The hot water has a metallic smell or taste. This is also a sign that the interior of your water heater is starting to break down.

-Your water heater makes loud cracks or pops. This is a sign that sediment may have built up to the point where it has formed a mass in your water heater, and the heating process is creating noises.

– There are burn marks or soot on the water heater, indicating a potential problem with the venting or flue pipe. As this is potentially dangerous to your well-being, this should be addressed by a professional immediately.

-There is condensation on top of or around your water heater. A slight fracture in your tank can produce condensation on top of or around your water heater. This is an indication that it is time to replace your water heater.

When installing a new hot water heater it is a good practice to provide regular maintenance to extend its life. Cleaning out the burner compartment, keeping the area around the hot water heater free of lint and debris, and flushing the relief valve a couple of times a year to get rid of any rust build up, will reduce the amount of repairs and allow your water heater to run efficiently. It is also a good idea to keep the water temperature set to the manufacturer’s recommended temperature setting. This is usually about 120 degrees.

When searching for a new hot water heater there are a few questions you should ask your professional installer, like; what size water heater do I need to fit my household needs; do I need a water heater with a high recovery rate; what are the dimensions of the new heater; and what is the efficiency rating?

In today’s hot water heater marketplace, there are many options for your domestic hot water needs. If high efficiency is a high priority, consider a tankless hot water heater. The initial cost is a little more than a standard hot water heater, however, the benefits of a high efficiency unit are worth the investment.

Tankless water heaters are much smaller than standard heaters, and can be mounted on any wall of your home, including an exterior wall. Tankless heaters typically last twice as long as the standard ones, providing 20 years plus of domestic hot water service. According to, “for homes that use 41 gallons or less of hot water daily, on demand (tankless) water heaters can be 24% to 34% more efficient than conventional storage tank water heaters”.

Because of their high efficiency and design, tankless hot water heaters deliver hot water on demand, providing two to three gallons of water per minute. Standard hot water heaters hold water in their tanks, and heat and reheat water based on the unit’s temperature setting. Even when you are not using water, your water heater may turn on just to reheat the water that has already been heated.

A final word of advice to those reading this article. Take a moment to check your water heater. It is recommended that you do this twice a year so that you can detect any issues with your water heater in advance of a leak, a repair or a venting issue, which can lead to a carbon monoxide emergency in your home.

If you suspect there is something wrong, consult with a professional. Knowledgeable technicians can provide you with the proper diagnostic of your water heater and provide options to repair or replace your equipment.

As with all home improvements or home repair services, make sure you select a company that is licensed and insured to do work in New York City, and who is capable of providing the services you need. Ask for references and check their reviews online to ensure their customers are satisfied with the services they were provided.

Tom & Frank Scarangello Scaran Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing

(718) 984-0805