Buying A Home? Here's How To Tell If The Water Heater Needs Replacing

If you're in the market for a new home, taking time to assess whether or not major appliances will need to be repaired or replaced can help you with your negotiations and save you money. Although most homeowners will tell you if the water heater needs some work done on it, this is not always the case. Here are a few ways you can determine for yourself if the water heater will be an issue in your new home.


Possibly the most reliable sign that a water heater is ready to be retired is its age. A water heater will provide an average of 8 to 12 years of service. Like other appliances, it will start to cause more and more trouble the closer it gets to the end of its lifespan.

The first question you want to ask the homeowner is how old the appliance is. If they are not sure or you want to verify the person's claim, you can find out yourself by looking at the manufacturer's label on the water heater. If the installation date is not listed, then copy down the machine's serial number and the name of the manufacturer.

The manufacturer will usually encode the installation date into the serial code. You just need to know how to decipher it. Some manufacturers have tools on their websites that let you plug in the serial number and they will tell you when the appliance was installed. However, you can also find detailed information about extracting the installation date from the serial code on this website.

Water Type

Another question you should ask the homeowner is whether or not they have hard water. Regardless of the level of sediment in the water, hard water will damage a water heater, reduce its efficiency and decrease its life expectancy unless the homeowner has taken steps to mitigate the effects of the sediments found in water.

If the home has a water softener, then you don't need to worry about this issue as much. Although this machine doesn't extract 100 percent of the minerals hard water contains, it does a good enough job that the water heater won't break down as quickly as if there wasn't a water softener.

On the other hand, if the home does not have a water softener, then ask the homeowner how often they have drained or descaled the water heater. If they say never, then you can be certain the machine will need to be repaired or replaced in the near future.

Poor Quality Water

An easy test you can do to further confirm whether or not the hot water heater is on its last legs is to inspect the water coming out of the faucets. Fill a clear glass with hot water and take a close look at it. Water that is rusty or muddy, tastes like metal, or has a foul odor to it often indicates the water heater is experiencing some issues.

Granted, the water itself could be problematic, so you'll want to draw a glass of cold water to compare. If the cold water looks and smells significantly better than the hot water, then it's a safe bet the water heater is the source of the issue. Sometimes you can visually confirm this by checking the sinks and bathtubs for rust stains.

The average cost of replacing a water heater is about $1,008, so having to get a new one shouldn't be a deal breaker if you've found a home you truly love. Additionally, a trained technician may be able to employ a few solutions to help extend the life of the machine. For more information about determining if a water heater needs to be replaced or repaired, contact a licensed water heater or boiler repair company.