How Long Does a Water Heater Last in Arizona?

2018 Mar 07
Posted in: Electrical

corroded water heater

A badly corroded water heater we replaced for an Arizona homeowner.

The answer? Well, it’s significantly shorter than water heater lifespans in other areas of the country.

In fact, in most places in the US...

  • A gas tank water heater typically lasts around 10 years
  • An electric tank water heater typically lasts around 11 years
  • A tankless water heater (gas or electric) typically lasts 20+ years

But here’s the unfortunate truth: In Arizona, a tank water heater typically only lives 6 to 10 years on average.

We’ll explain why Arizona water heaters are doomed to a shorter lifespan and how you can extend the life of your water heater. But first, let’s talk about when Arizona homeowners should start considering water heater replacement.

Is your water heater nearing (or past) its 6th birthday?

If so, don’t panic just yet. There may still be life left in your water heater. In fact, the nice thing about water heaters is that they’ll drop some major hints that they’re about to die.

Signs your water heater needs to be replaced ASAP:

  • Your hot water is a rusty color (but your cold water is clear)
  • The tank itself is leaking
  • Your water heater is making popping/rumbling noises
  • Your hot water has a metallic smell and taste to it
  • Your water heater no longer provides enough hot water
  • The water heater needs more and more frequent repairs

Want more information about replacing your water heater? Just check out our blog, "Should I Preemptively Replace My Old Water Heater?".

Why Arizona water heaters die young

If you’re an Arizona homeowner, you may have to replace your water heater up to 4 years sooner than homeowners in other areas of the US.

And you can thank our notoriously hard water for that.

So what is “hard water” and how does it affect a water heater’s lifespan?

Well, hard water is basically just water with a lot of minerals in it (calcium and magnesium, to be exact). Now, over time, the minerals in the water settle to the bottom of your water heater and create a thick sludge of “sediment buildup”. That layer of sediment builds and insulates your burners/heating elements from the water, which forces the unit to work harder and longer.

The result is an overworked water heater that will skyrocket your energy bills before dying prematurely.

So how “hard” is AZ’s water? It’s “very hard”.

To put things into context, the USGS (United States Geological Survey) categorizes different areas in the United States according to how hard the water is. These varying “levels” of hard water include:

  • Soft
  • Moderately hard
  • Hard
  • Very hard

As you can see from the map below, Arizona’s water has up to 250 milligrams of calcium carbonate per liter of water—making it very hard water (see map below).

Arizona on a US water hardness map

Arizona falls in the red zone, which represents areas with very hard water. Source

The bottom line? Arizona’s hard water is the culprit behind the premature death of many water heaters. The good news is that there are 2 surefire ways to preserve the life of your Arizona water heater:

  1. Regularly maintaining your water heater
  2. Installing a water conditioning system

Regular maintenance extends the life of your water heater

According to Energy.gov, “periodic water heater maintenance can significantly extend the life of your water heater and minimize loss of efficiency”.

How? Well, during a maintenance visit, a plumber will “flush” your water heater, which entails draining your water heater of water and clearing out all of the sediment buildup. Regular flushing prevents sediment from building up and wreaking havoc in your water heater. To learn more about the benefits, check out our blog, “The Importance of a Water Heater Flush”.

On top of flushing the water heater, the plumber should also check the anode rod— a long thin aluminum or magnesium rod that runs down the inside of your water heater.

Anode rods are designed to attract all of the corrosive material in the tank’s water and basically “sacrifice” themselves to corrosion so that the water heater itself won’t corrode. These rods should be replaced every 2-3 years depending on how hard your water is.

corroded vs new anode rod

A corroded water heater anode rod (left) next to a new replacement rod (right).

So how often should you schedule water heater maintenance? Our suggestion is to schedule maintenance twice a year due to how hard our water is.

A water conditioning system extends the life of your water heater

Water conditioning systems basically force the minerals/chemicals in your hard water to stay suspended in the water instead of sticking to the inside of your water heater (or pipes, for that matter).

When homeowners install a water conditioner at the main water line, hard water minerals bind together, making it easier for them to flow in and out of your water heater instead of settling and building up on the inside of the tank. This drastically slows down both the process of corrosion and sediment buildup.

Tankless water heaters especially benefit from a water conditioning system. Because they’re smaller units, tankless units can easily clog due to sediment buildup—which forces the unit to shutdown. Most of time, when this happens, the unit’s heat exchanger (the part that heats the water) will have to be replaced, which is an expensive repair.

And the worst part? Most manufacturers won’t cover a heat exchanger replacement under warranty if the failure is due to sediment buildup. So, a water conditioning system will save you expensive repairs and extend the life of all your water fixtures.

Need to schedule water heater maintenance in Phoenix?

Just contact us. We’ll send over a qualified plumber to inspect and drain your water heater.

Think you might need a water heater replacement soon? We can help with that too.

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