How Long Do Water Heaters Live?

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My 40 gal gas water heater is about 13 yrs old. Water is hot and it works fine. The only sign of age is exterior paint starting to flake off with rust underneath. (Its kind of strange...the flake bits are perfectly round...like tiny polka dots.)
What is the average life of a gas water heater? I don't want to replace a perfectly good heater with lots of life left, but I don't want to play Russian roulette and come home from work one day to a swimming pool in my basement!
What are the signs that its time for it to go?
THanks!
--Jeff
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on 6/17/2007 8:21 PM JB said the following:

My last 40 gal. one lasted 10 years. The first sign was water on the floor.
--

Bill
In Hamptonburgh, NY
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Water varies in quality. Ask your neighbors how long theirs lasted. But probably it will go any day now, probably right before you want to take a shower.

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I remember this being asked in a newspaper column by someone saying he had a 15 year old water heater. The answer in the newspaper column was, as best as I remember, "15 years, TICK TICK TICK!"
As for a warning sign: Often, but not guaranteed, is that hot water runs out much more quickly. What happens (at least sometimes) is that a tube in the tank that helps the water heat up evenly falls out of place due to corrosion, and this has the effect of simulating a much smaller tank capacity. Whenever I noticed the water heater running out of hot water easily because of this, the water heater leaked in a matter of months.
- Don Klipstein ( snipped-for-privacy@misty.com)
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Don Klipstein wrote:

"Dip Tube".
There was an infamous recall on a large number of water heaters several years ago on this.
Rob
falls out of place

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JB wrote:

Water quality is one variable, as well as maintenance.
I had 2 electric heaters on the same system. The one installed in 1960 failed(leaked) in 1995.
The one installed in 1956 is still in use.
Rob
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life than electrics?
KC
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wrote:

Yes they do. Electrics heat the water at a slower rate and the element is immersed. That makes for a lot less stress on the tank then basically having a fire under it that gets hot quick and then cools.
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o, about 3 weeks.
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Who manufactred the water heaters you spoke of. Nancy
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N.J. Crane wrote:

Can't remember on the 35 y/o one(the 1995 death). The 51 year old one is a Rheem.
Rob
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If you see a leak, it is gone. If you suddenly get a lot of rusty water, it may be going fast. That said, I sold my last house and the water heater was 20 years old.
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Personal experiences only here based on home and multiple rental unit ownership over a 35 year period. I have seen them last 30 years and I have seen them die in 5 years. My overall average is about 15 years of service. As others have said usage and water quality are a factor.
I have never had one fail in a dramatic fashion. All of my tank failures have dripped, some for months, before I replaced them. more common is a burner or control valve failure.
Your small round dots may be caused by condensation when the incoming water is cold and there has been a high use.
Based on my experiences I would not replace the unit until it failed to deliver the water I needed or showed some visible signs of failure. Side note: I always turn my heater to pilot and shut off the water main when I am on vacation.
Colbyt
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On Sun, 17 Jun 2007 17:21:49 -0700, JB wrote:

My 16 yr old 50 gall is in perfect shape outside, can't tell inside but it still has plenty of hot water when I need it.
--
#1 Offishul Ruiner of Usenet, March 2007
#1 Usenet Asshole, March 2007
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JB wrote:

and seems to have no problems. I did add an additional anode a few years back.
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gas last less than electric, around here 10 years is good life. I replace mine about that time.
new designs are much more energy efficent and if a flood can damage stuff your better off replacing early.
WHs are realtively cheap appliances, divide purchase price by 10 year life.... very low.
I prefer to pick and choose replacement time, after the one died christmas eve during snow storm, 20 degrees and howling wind, houseguests coming the next morning.:(
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On Mon, 18 Jun 2007 04:04:10 +0000, M Q wrote:

I should check my anode, it's probably fairly eroded by now.
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be prepared to replace tank at that time, messing with it may start a leak
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On Mon, 18 Jun 2007 15:18:28 +0000, snipped-for-privacy@aol.com wrote:

I suppose it could. Wouldn't be a big deal to replace the tank I guess but it would suck to do it just because I messed with the anode.
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My dad on city water used to replace his every 10 years (gas). Regular as clock work. OF the three houses I've owned, I replaced one at 10 yrs (gas, city water), and two others were still going strong at 18 years (well, electric).

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