Ask Angie

Should I replace an aging water heater?

Q: My water heater is past its expected lifetime. Should I automatically replace it or wait until it fails?

Jennifer B., Newton, Mass.

A: Your question reminds me of the old saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Or, more precisely, don’t replace it.

Several highly rated experts our researchers interviewed say there’s no need to spend money on a new water heater if your old one works. The typical life span for a water heater is 10 to 15 years, but some do last longer.

One exception to this thought is if you want to upgrade to a more energy-efficient unit. Not only will you save money over time on energy costs, but you may be able to take advantage of a federal tax credit that expires Dec. 31. It allows a credit of $300 to eligible taxpayers who buy a new, energy-efficient water heater, which can range from $2,800 to $4,500.

But if you’re not sure whether to replace what’s working, consider the following factors:

• How well have you maintained the water heater? Experts say regularly maintained units that have been flushed annually will last longer than those that have been neglected.

• Where is it located in the house? If it’s on a main or upper floor and there’s no drain nearby, it could leak, creating the need for expensive repairs. If it’s in the basement and near a drain, a leak is less of a concern.

• How much use does the heater receive? The more people who use hot water in a house, the more wear the heater has experienced.

• What is the water quality in your area? Hard or poor-quality water can cause a greater level of sediment to build up and may shorten your water heater’s life.

If you decide to keep using your aging-but-operable water heater, consider having a plumber perform a full inspection and routine maintenance. This would generally include checking for rust, making sure connections are in good order, and ensuring that the gas valve, pan and the burner chamber show no signs of corrosion or leakage. Also, the plumber can flush cold water through the water heater to remove sediment and debris from the bottom of the tank, to allow it to work more effectively.

If you learn that the water heater needs a relatively costly repair, it might be wiser to invest in a new unit. The service providers tell our team that it’s rarely a good value to fix a water heater that’s reached its expected life span unless you can be assured it could last at least five more years.

Submit questions to Angie at

Read more Home & Garden stories from the Miami Herald

The Wilshire Boulevard Los Angeles penthouse of the late lyricist Hal David is listed at $5.15 million.

    Hot Property: Los Angeles

    Melanie Brown spices up the neighborhood

    Melanie Brown — also known as Mel B or Scary Spice from her days with the British pop group Spice Girls — and her husband, producer Stephen Belafonte, have bought a house in Hollywood Hills West for $4.34 million, public records show.

Icelandic horses, rams, reindeer and other natural icons of the landscape are brought to life by Lagdur in visually powerful photoprinted pillows.


    Icelandic design branches out

    Being a small, sparsely populated island nudged up against the edge of the Arctic Circle hasn’t stopped Iceland from nurturing a rich and varied design industry.

Built-in seating in a garden in Richmond, Virginia, designed by landscape architect Meg Turner, echoes the stonework in the home.

    Home and Garden

    Landscaping: Feeling the music of a well-designed garden

    In a well-designed garden, you can feel the music.

Miami Herald

Join the

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category