What is the lifespan of a hot water tank? When to replace your water heater

15 January 2020,
  • Why does my water heater no longer provide as much hot water as when I bought it?
  • Why is the hot water not as hot as before?
  • Why is there white or rust residue in the tap water?
  • Why is there rust in my water heater?
  • Why is my water heater leaking from the bottom to the point where I need to put towels around it?


Trust a reputable plumber to handle a water heater replacement for safety and more savings


If you are looking for the answer to any of these questions, it is most likely that the answer is: because it is high time to think about replacing your water heater.


Factors that decrease the average life of a water heater

Know the factors that decrease the lifespan of a water heater to save money.

Although the average lifespan of a water heater is 10 to 15 years, it can last longer.

A descriptive plate, stuck on the tank, will inform you about the date of manufacture.

The life expectancy of a water heater depends on several factors.

  1. The mineral content of the water in your area can affect lifespan of your water heater and necessitate repairs.

 The type of water in your area can play a very important role in the life expectancy of your water heater.

 For example:

    • water loaded with mineral salts, which is called hard water, can cause deposits of lime scale on the heating elements of the tank of your water heater,

Therefore, it is better to regularly remove the heating elements from the layer of limestone that covers them because this crust, as solid as cement, will diminish the function of the elements which is to heat the water. The thermostat, not detecting that the water is hot enough, will make the elements continue operating constantly. The result: overheating … which will reduce their lifespan.


  1. Water with a high iron content can be corrosive and cause problems earlier in your water heater.

 If your water is ferrous and traces of rust appear in tap water, it is advisable to drain the water heater annually to remove residues, although this is rarely required.

 If you have a gas water heater, it is possible that the water is less hot or that there is less hot water than before because there are too many accumulated deposits in the bottom of the latter.

You may have no control over the quality of the water in your area. You can remedy the problem by installing a water softener or by conscientiously maintaining your water heater.


  1. The manufacturing quality of the water heater is a determining factor in its lifespan and it is not only a question of price.

 You have control over this factor that can influence the life of your water heater.

How do you know if the water heater you plan to buy is an entry-level or high-end model before you know the price?

 For example, you know that the model you are looking for is entry-level if the warranty says:

    • 6 years on the tank and
    • 1 year on the thermostat.

On the other hand, you are attracted to a high-end model if the guarantee indicates:

    • 8 to 12 years old on the tank.

Either way, insurers recommend considering the replacement of your water heater after 10 years or, at the very least, doing all the checks on a regular basis after that age.

Some of them may even refuse to cover the damage caused by an over-aged water heater, given the increase in the number of claims caused by it.


  1. Transportation and installation are very important things that can delay the subsequent replacement of your water heater.


Check installation and delivery charges when you buy a water heater.


If you buy your water heater at a big box store, budget a few dollars more to have it delivered. Indeed, a water heater must travel upright and not lie in the bottom of the box of a van.

Replacing a water heater with a unit with a smaller capacity causes fewer problems than replacing it with a larger one. In this case, some modifications must be made to the home’s power supply. It is, therefore, certainly preferable to have the installation carried out by a professional.

As in the previous case, if you replace a water heater with the same capacity, it is still preferable to have it replaced by a plumbing expert who is a member of the Corporation des maîtres mécaniciens en tuyauterie du Québec (CMMTQ).


Did you know that different manufacturers provide an extended warranty on their water heater if it is installed by a plumbing professional?

 A water heater installed by a plumbing contractor can have a better life. The risk of breakage is reduced.

Consider the following:

  • a water heater is heavy,
  • we must replace one that has reached the end of its useful life,
  • you have to dispose of it in an ecological way,
  • the connection and installation rules are different from one type of water heater to another,
  • certain electrical standards must be observed during installation,
  • you should also know and observe the plumbing codes and standards in force, such as those of the Régie du Bâtiment du Québec.
  • etc.


What is the price of replacing a water heater with a plumber?

40-gallon water heater 40-gallon water heater
Economical $530 to $600 + taxes $630 to $700 + taxes
Top of the line $650 to $750 + taxes $750 to $900 + taxes


 ** These prices are based on the prices charged by one of our partner plumbers. EVERYTHING is included (delivery + installation). Get accurate quotes by filling out the form on this page.


Signs that replacement water heaters are required

If you notice that the water is getting less hot over time or that there seems to be less hot water than before, it is very likely that you need a water heater replacement soon.

Rusty water or light-colored clothes that comes out of the washing machine with rust stains usually indicates that it is time to get a new water heater.

Another sign of the aging of your water heater is moisture to the touch or the appearance of rust at the base (or on the surface) of the tank. Water, by gravity, always takes a path down. The fact that there is rust at the base of the tank may indicate the possible existence of a crack causing the start of a small progressive leak. The water then concentrates this place.

If rust has punctured the tank and you find water on the floor near the water heater, you need to replace the water heater urgently.


Tips to avoid water damage with a hot water tank

To avoid a water heater breakage, it is important to take the appropriate steps during installation if your water heater is:

  • on a floor covered with ceramic or
  • on the concrete slab, or
  • very close to a floor drain.

The changes will then be minimal. In addition, if during installation, you put a water retention container under your water heater, you will discover more quickly if a gradual and continuous leak has started, thus giving you time to react appropriately.


What to do if you have not replaced your water heater soon enough and are dealing with a catastrophe?

  •  Stop the power (electricity or gas, depending on the type of supply to your water heater)
    •  If powered by gas, the dial on the thermostat is in the “on” position. It must be turned and set to “off”.
    • If it is powered by electricity, turn off the electrical power to the water heater through the outlet on it or from your electrical panel.
  • Cut off the water supply.

You can prevent water from entering the water heater through the switch located on the top of the apparatus.

  • Drain the water heater (if required).


Beware of burns

Connect a garden hose to the drain valve which you will find near the base of heater.  Put the other end of the hose lower, near the floor drain to be able to allow the hot water to drain. Then open the hot water tap on the side of the water heater and the drain valve. Be careful not to burn yourself as the water may still be hot.


Do you just want to clean the water heater because your water is hard or ferrous?

Learn practical maintenance tips to preserve the life of your water heater

To avoid burns, turn off the water to your water heater and then take your shower. Thus, a maximum of hot water will have been used.

Then, after having purged the water heater as explained above, open the cold water tap and leave the drain tap open. With circulation, the water will remove deposits that would have lodged at the bottom of the tank.

Let the water run until it comes out clean.

Filling the water heater:

All you have to do is fill the water heater again.

Close the drain valve located at the bottom of the tank but leave the cold water tap open.

From time to time, open the drain valve to check if the water coming out contains bubbles or if it is clear.

When there is no more air in the tank, close the purge valve permanently and leave the cold water tap open so that the tank fills up.


Steps to replace your hot water tank

Below is a brief summary of the steps done by your plumber when replacing your tank.

  • First, your plumber will close the water valve, then the electric valve. Using a garden hose, it will empty the contents of your old water heater. It will then unclutter it by removing it outside the house. Ask your municipality about the hours of collection of large waste.
  • Now that your old water heater has cleared the space, your plumber will advise you on the best way to install the new one. Should you choose a new location in the house? What types of materials to choose for piping? Is an integrated safety valve necessary? Your plumber will inform you about the characteristics of your house and its needs for hot water tanks. It ensures a safe installation.
  • Finally, after installation, the plumber will fill your hot water tank and check its efficiency and safety. He will examine the tightness of the welds, adjust the temperature of the heating elements and inform you about the operation of your tank.


Which plumber should you hire to replace your water heater?

Bad experiences with some plumbers are all too common. How can you avoid an unsatisfactory plumbing service? What are the characteristics of a good plumber?

  • He knows his rates: a reliable plumber has enough expertise to inform you of his rates before the first visit. Depending on the details of your situation that you will send him by phone or email, he will inform you – precisely or approximately – of the cost of the work;
  • He provides a detailed and complete quote: his estimate of the cost of the work includes the cost of parts as well as that of labor and travel;
  • His first piece of advice is not dramatic in nature: a good plumber will not at first offer to change the whole of your water system. His advice will be calm and balanced. It will always start with the most practical and least radical possible solutions;
  • He will have the required equipment: a reliable plumber has enough professional experience to have at his disposal the tools and parts necessary for your repair;
  • Insurance and civil liability: these are essential for the plumber’s work. Find out these details: who is his insurer? How much?
  • The number of years of expertise and professional license: the Consumer Protection Office allows you to find out about the plumber you are interested in. In addition, the CCMTQ keeps a register of the license numbers of plumbers whose professional qualifications it has verified.


Do you need to replace your water heater? Compare prices now!

There are several signs that a water heater is in trouble:

  • water that collects around or near your water heater can mean a leak,
  • a decrease in the quality of the water, manifested by the presence of sediment or rust in tap water,
  • hot water which does not have the right temperature (not as hot as before) or gone quickly after a short period of time …


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