Replace Functioning Water Heater?

We have lived in this house 8-10 years. The natural gas water heater is the same as when we moved in. One major benefit it has is it is pilot-light enabled -- it doesn't require electricity. I have taken many hot showers by candle light when the power has been off 2+ days here in Maryland USA.
What I DON'T want to have happen is come home one day to a flood of water coming out of the utility room from the water heater after a catastrophic failure.
Is it a "normal, good" practice to replace a water heater after a certain # of years, whether or not it is still working fine?
Thanks.
-- Mark
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Then be on the lookout for a leak. It should start out small. That will be the time to replace it.

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With all due respect, I wouldn't count on this.
Unfortunately, water heaters sometimes fail catastrophically with no warning. One of my neighbors across the street came home after a 3 hour Xmas shopping trip to find the first floor of his house under 2 inches of water due to the sudden failure of his water heater. It was a real drag because he had just cashed out most of his equity in a refi to do about $50K of refurbs and updates to his home (new hardwood flooring...the whole bit). His homeowner's insurance covered the damage (less his $1500.00 deductible), but he was expecting to have a lot of family come and stay over for the holidays. Needless to say, this put a damper (no pun intended) on his Christmas. He was not a happy camper.
I live in South Texas and we have a problem with lime and other hard water deposits. As a result, water heaters don't last very long here, unless you really stay on top of keeping them flushed and the anode(s) replaced as needed.
I don't know the average life span of a water heater in Maryland. Your water heater may be just fine, or it may be a ticking time bomb. IMHO, if you have *any* doubts about it's condition, just replace it. The cost will most likely be less than the deductible on your homeowner's policy - not to mention the peace of mind of having dealt with it *before* it turned into an emergency.
FYI, here's one of my favorite sites regarding water heaters. Lots of good info here.
http://www.waterheaterrescue.com /
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Somewhere on the nameplate it should tell what year it was made.
It would be unusual to replace a heater simply because it is old; but if you have the cash for it and want to avoid a problem, then there is no reason not to. I just replaced a 15 yo heater because the T&P valve had gone bad and I figured it's time was about up.
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My rule of thumb is keep it unless it isn't functioning. Remember that the design of gas water heaters has changed now and they're more expensive. Federal Law now requires a sealed combustion chamber as part of the design.

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Don't worry about losing your shower in the dark. Unlike furnaces, boilers and stoves, standard gas water heaters still come with pilot lights.
--
Peace,
BobJ

("Mike Bittel" < snipped-for-privacy@wwoh.rr.com> wrote in message
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Yeah, why is that? What's different about water heaters?
-- Ken (an energy-conservation-minded guy, who nonetheless longs for the good old days of pilot lights)
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Thanks, everyone. For now I'll keep inspecting the heater.
-- Mark
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I don't think it is normal practice, but that is exactly what I'm about to do now. My last hot water heater lasted 8 years, then one day I woke up and my basement was flooded. It's now 8 years later, and I don't want to go throught that mess again.
Biggest reason for being worth it: Since lots of stuff was ruined, we called the insurance company who paid the claim. My deductible was almost as much as a water heater would cost, plus after they paid, they raised my rates, plus they only pay for the damage. You still have to pay for a new water heater.
Overall, it's cheaper to replace every so many years. You decide when it's convenient to replace, instead of having to replace it within a few hours after it bursts, and dedicating the next few days to cleanup.
Of course, some people's water heaters just fail, don't bust and flood a room, and last 15+ years, but with the quality of local water, it differs for each person. I will say this, and that on my street where all the houses were built within 8 months of each other, I saw a lot of AO Smith (we all had these) water heaters left for trash pickup around the same time. All our water heaters lasted about the same time.
Best of luck to you.
Steve
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Opinions run the full spectrum. I work with a guy that believes he should sell the house before the water heater needs replacement. Richard Trethewey (the mechanical guy from this old house) wrote in one of his books that the idea a heater heater should only last 10 years is incorrect. He believes if you do three things it will last 30 or more years. One, replace the anode every few years. Two, flush it every 6 months to remove sediment. Three, change the cold water dip tube (input tube) to one with a bend in it so it stirs the sediment and reduces its build up. The manual that came with my new heater suggested removing and inspecting the anode every 3 years. And replace if it is more than 50% gone. Plus, flush the tank every 6 months. The heater that came with my house lasted 12 years. The seconded lasted 8. Go figure. I never replaced the anode on the second tank because I could not find a plumbing store that new what an anode was. I still have the old water heater and plan to check the anode before I junk it. Bet it is completely gone. I did flush it once a year. Never saw any noticable sediment. Both heaters started with a slow leak. The first one I found within a few days of when it started. The leak did not spread far. The second one I think was leaking for a week or more. I noticed it when my stocking foot got wet when I entered a room. Should have investigated that musty smell when I first noticed it! Its up to you. I am not sure I would replace one that is not leaking. But my new one has a pan under it.

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Sounds like good advice. Can you tell us what brand of water heater you ended up buying? I am currently doing some research before replacing my 9 year old water heater. I agree that from what I have learned so far it seems that replacing the anode periodically is the best way to make them last longer. However, I have seen some which makes this maintenance harder by putting the anode in the pipes. Also, it seems the magnesium rod is preferable to the aluminum type. I also will try to get the plumber to install a ball valve (brass) drain to replace whatever comes on a new one. I have found that the washers on the other drain valves don't hold up over the years and I have had to screw a brass cap over the drain to keep it from leaking.
Would be interested in what brand water heater you installed since it apparently has an anode rod which can be replaced. Thanks.
derek snipped-for-privacy@agilent.com (Derek Toeppen) wrote in message

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snipped-for-privacy@earthlink.net (Bern M) wrote in message

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On 20 Jan 2004 07:07:46 -0800, derek snipped-for-privacy@agilent.com (Derek Toeppen) wrote:

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Thanks for the reply. I have a spec sheet from Lowe's on the Whirlpool water heaters and I notice that that they specify certain models for high altitude locations. I was wondering if perhaps you needed one of these models if, in fact, your model was not a 'high altitude' model. I am currently seriously considering the Lochinvar brand which my plumber recommends. It has a large magnesium anode rod and a brass drain valve, but the anode rod is in the water pipe, which I'm not too crazy about. In any case, good luck with yours.
derek snipped-for-privacy@agilent.com (Derek Toeppen) wrote in message

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snipped-for-privacy@earthlink.net (Bern M) wrote in message

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derek snipped-for-privacy@agilent.com (Derek Toeppen) wrote:

I just installed a Whirlpool Gas Hot Water Heater 2 days ago.
I don't have the noise you have, and it sounds about the same as any water heater I've owned, and I'm now on my 3rd in this house.
Everyone in the house thinks the water is hotter, even though the thermostat on the water heater is set lower than the recommended setting.
I hve no complaints with it. I just got it from Lowe's and they had a $99 installation, so it's price was about $150 less than Home Depot's or Sears for the same size/type water heater.
All in all, I'm very satisfied. (As I said, it's only been 2 days, but no complaints so far.)
Steve
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