How Long Do Water Heaters Live?

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The plumbing expert (Richard Trethuey, SP?) who works the TOH and Ask TOH beat once handled your question in a different way. He installed in the clients basement a pan underneath the water heater. This pan had a pump and float activated switch. The pump was connected to a hose which directed the effluent either to a basement sink or above grade. It seems like a solution which could eliminate worrying about a falure at an unknown time, most pobably when your on vacation. Joe G
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Life is from 8 to 30 years, perhaps 15 years is the average. Soft water, regular maintenance, and cooler temperatures will extend the life expectancy.

Leakage or not heating. It is a good idea to install a drip pan with a hose to the outside (mine feeds into the A/C drain). Also not a bad idea to install a moisture alarm and keep goods up off the floor.

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around here 8 to 12 years, and 12 is very unusual, 10 is lkikely average for good tank. realize they come with different warranties. 2 year, 6 year, 8 year, 12 year. the 12 year tanks price is so high it subsudizes those who need a replacement and still have the warranty paperwork. silting up is more likely as tanks age too.
now take a average 40 gallon tank that lasts 10 years. say it cost 500 bucks installed.
thats only 50 bucks a year, less than a buck a week, not worth a lot of worry.
regular tanks are about 34,000 BTU. I prefer the 75 thousand BTU ones for faster recovery. They tend to be made better, and do cost a bit more but are well worth the extra expense
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posting a question about the lifetime of your water heater.
you could also say something like "my water heater is built like a brick, it''ll never leak"
murphys law, go figgure
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Tips for longer life from a HW tank.
buy a oversize tank, like 75 gallons less stress on the tank.
a 40 gallon tank gets emptied too fast and too often the temperature swings expanssion and contraction lead to earlier failure.
buy a 12 year guarantee tank, costs more but has heavier better materials, that naturally cost more.
you can check change anode but may not be able to get it apart and theres a chance cause a leak requiring immediate replacement.
buy a tank with a brass drain valve or ideally upgrade to a ball valve for easy draining. Although I quit doing this years ago. plastic drain valves are junk and only designed to empty the tank once at its end of life.
remember new tanks arent bad news, they have better foam insulation and all that sediment is gone, giving better recovery.
I prefer to pick the time to replace mine rather than deal with a flood at a inconvenient time......
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