Should I get a new water heater post haste?

Hi-
Again, my new 102-year old house (closing will be end of September). I had it inspected and one comment in the inspection report is that the hot water heater is really old and will need to be replaced. It's working fine, but it's 22 years old, a 40-gallon tank. The inspector says it normally has a life of about 10 years.
I know that when a water heater "starts to go", sometimes you get water leakage around the bottom. Right now there is no such leakage and everything seems fine. My question is, when it "starts to go", will it DEFINITELY start leaking, or is it possible that it will just burst or something equally violent? If it will start leaking when it needs to be replaced, then I can just monitor it weekly to make sure there's no leaking, and when I see leaking, I can then replace it. But if it's a possibility that something major could happen just out of the blue, I'd probably better replace it now since it's so old.
Comments and advice are always welcomed from this group!
Best,
Lesley
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Lesley wrote:

More likely it will start to leak slowly, but you may not notice it until it is leaking rather fast. I don't think explosions are common.
It you are buying the home, then maybe you can get the seller to at least go 50% on a new one. BTW water heaters have very unpredictable lives. Generally the area and the water they are feed makes a big difference. You might get another 10 years, but I would consider replacing it now and as I suggested you can get the seller to at least go part way, you are well ahead in the game.
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Joseph E. Meehan

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Hi Joe,
Too late for that. I waived my right to a contingent inspection. This inspection that I had was just for my information, because I couldn't sleep at night wondering if it wasn't the stupidest thing I ever did, waiving my right to an inspection. Turned out OK, but I don't have any bargaining power at this point. It's all over but the shouting (closing).
The basement is bone dry, so I'm thinking that it should be relatively easy to notice leaking if I check once per week, don't you think?
Lesley
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If it's bone dry outside, and the inspector didn't have something specifically bad to say about it (other than it just being old), it'll probably be difficult to get anything out of the seller.
It's difficult to accurately predict what it'll do. For the most part, you'll get relatively minor leaks. The danger being that you don't see it until the water damage is done.
Fast leaks are relatively rare (usually due to a pipe split from freezing or something like that). A really rotten iron fitting (eg: supply, or OPV fitting) could split. But that would be visually obvious on inspection, and the inspection should say so.
Explosion/rupture is almost impossible. _Almost_. If the inspector did what he was supposed to do, he should have tested the overpressure valve. _IF_ the OPV fails AND IF the thermostat sticks on, AND IF you're on a pressure regulator/one-way valve of some sort (water can't be pushed back through the supply pipe), the resulting steam explosion could level the house.
Fortunately, having all of those factors come together is _extremely_ rare.
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Chris Lewis, Una confibula non set est
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snipped-for-privacy@nortelnetworks.com (Chris Lewis) wrote in message

Damage to what? It's in the basement, and the basement floor is stone. Can it do damage to that?

Well the inspection report doesn't mention anything like that. I plan on monitoring it weekly once I move in so that I can spot a leak when it's still small. . .

That is way more than I needed to know about the possibility of a water heater explosion. Now I'm going to be back to not sleeping at night. . .;)
Lesley
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Probably not. But what about what you've stored on the floor? Do the walls have covering of some kind? Do you have wiring near the floor? Could the basement experience freezing temperatures?


At your service ;-)
Seriously, it needs all three factors together. You can completely eliminate the concern by determining whether your water supply has a one-way valve or pressure regulator valve that doesn't have an OP bypass. If it's straight from the street except for the water meter and ordinary shutoff valves (like most people), the HWT _cannot_ explode (because you can't build up dangerous pressures in the HWT from steam).
Secondly, you should test the HWT OPV periodically. Like, every 6 months or so. Simply wiggle the handle (just enough to get it to spit). Exercise caution you don't burn yourself.
You should be able to get it to spit a bit of hot water thru the drain line. In some rare instances, testing the OPV can end up having it continue to leak a bit. Or your test will show you can't get it to spit (stuck closed). Either way, time to replace the OPV.
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Chris Lewis, Una confibula non set est
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