HVAC Services | Heating Oil | Propane

Request a call back

When is it time to replace your water heater? Repair or replace guide to water heaters.

When your water heater is working properly, you probably don’t think about it at all. From washing dishes to enjoying a hot bath, we all take our home’s water heater for granted until something goes wrong. Being prepared before trouble strikes is key if you want to avoid disruption in the event of a failure.

Here’s everything you need to know to keep your water heater functioning effectively, and what to do when something goes wrong.

How long should a hot water heater last?

Many homeowners wonder “How often should a hot water heater be replaced?” In a typical situation, you should expect your water heater to last about ten years. Although electric water heaters tend to last a bit longer than their natural gas counterparts, the type of water heater is not the best predictor of how long your water heater will last. Instead, your use and maintenance will tell a much better story.

What to look for when your hot water heater is about to fail.

A failed water heater is more than just a disruption; it can sometimes lead to major damage to your home. The good news is that most water heaters will start letting you know it’s time for service before a catastrophe happens. Look for these signs that point to electric or gas hot water heater replacement:

  • Age. In most cases, when your water heater reaches the ripe old age of ten, it’s time to start keeping a close watch. If you’re not sure how old yours is, check the rating plate--or big sticker with the details of your unit.
  • Rusty water. If the hot water coming from your faucets is rusty, this could be a problem with the water heater tank. If rust shows up in the cold water, then it’s likely to be your pipes instead.
  • Noise. Loud rumbling, banging, or knocking: these are signs that your water heater is ready for repair or replacement. Keep in mind that quiet ticking and other small noises are normal--you’re listening for something new and loud.

When to replace your water heater?

If it’s been a decade since your heater has been installed, it’s likely to need replacing as the cost of major repairs would be better spent on a new unit. If your utility bills are climbing or you seem to need to crank the faucet farther and farther to get hot water, it might be time for a new one. Lastly, if you’ve had to make many repairs already and the unit still isn’t working properly, it’s probably time to stop throwing good money after bad.

When to repair your water heater.

If your water heater is relatively young, there are a few things you can check before calling for help:

If you have an electric water heater, your first stop should always be the breaker panel to make sure a breaker hasn’t tripped. Also, check to be sure the thermostat hasn’t accidentally been turned down.


For natural gas water heaters, check to make sure the thermostat is set correctly. If the water isn’t heating properly, it’s best to contact a professional and they can check to make sure the pilot light is working properly and flush the tank to clear sediment as another troubleshooting step. Common fixes for natural gas water heaters include cleaning the burner and replacing the thermocouple--both jobs for an experienced pro, but nothing that will break the bank.

Expert care for your hot water heater.

Most of the time, it’s perfectly fine to ignore your water heater and let it do its job uninterrupted. From time to time, you may wonder how long do hot water heaters last. The answer often depends on how well you care for your unit.

Every year, schedule an appointment to let a professional handle it for you. If you ever get the cold shoulder from your water heater, now you know whether a repair is a good idea or if it’s time for a replacement.

To learn more about hot water heater repair or replacement, or to schedule an appointment with one of our experts, call Petro Home Services today!

SALES: 888.735.5651
SERVICE: 800.645.4328

Related links

Petro Home Services is proud to not only serve communities in DC, CT, MA, MD, NJ, NY, PA, and RI but we also proudly acknowledge the skills and experience of our expert team behind all resources. With insights on topics ranging from heating oil facts to common air conditioning questions, you can rely on Petro Home Services for facts and information to help you understand more about your heating, cooling and home comfort needs. This article and all articles on the Petro Home Services website have been approved by our team of home service experts.