What I'm Seeing Now


One Way To Tell The Water Heater Has Reached The End - Look Underneath

One way to tell the water heater has reached the end - look underneath.

People ask me how long water heaters last.  The best answer is - it depends!

How many people live in the house?  A family of 5 or 6 will wear a water heater out faster than a single person.

What temperature is the water kept at?  The hotter it is the more frequent the water heater turns on.

Do they do a lot of wash with hot water?  If so, the water heater is used more often.

The natural gas water heater in this condo was 20 years old.

That might be the expected economic life span of most any water heater, but I have seen them last longer.

This one had seen betters days though.

There was substantial moisture evident and rust built up underneath.

And the TPR valve (which releases steam) was dripping all the time, as indicated by the yellow arrow.

This unit has seen better days and likely needs to be properly put to rest.

My recommendation:  things get old!  Nothing wins the battle with Father Time, as they say.   Not even a good-quality water heater.  And this water heater has seen better days.  And the purpose of the home inspection is to see things like this, evaluate them, and report on them to the buyer of a house or condo.  And go from there!



Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC  

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.

Office (703) 330-6388   Cell (703) 585-7560


Comment balloon 11 commentsJay Markanich • July 11 2016 01:36AM


Good morning Jay.  Yes sir, it appears that one has seen better days.  Time to lay it to rest.

Posted by James Dray, Exceptional Agents, Outstanding Results (Fathom Realty) about 4 years ago

When there is rust then we must change has been my rule of thumb.

Posted by Harry F. D'Elia III, Investor , Mentor, GRI, Radio, CIPS, REOs, ABR (RentVest) about 4 years ago

You got that right, I have seen them last 30 years, and fail at 10 years... tons of factors for their longevity.

Posted by Fred Hernden, CMI, Albuquerque area Master Inspector (Superior Home Inspections - Greater Albuquerque Area) about 4 years ago

Our old house had high concentrations of limestone in the water.  We would see white mineral buildup when boiling water.  The last time I had issues with the water heater, I pulled the elements thinking they were burnt out.  The lower elements was buried in sediment that had been flaking off over the years!

Posted by Stephen Weakley (Nationwide Mortgage Services) about 4 years ago

James - I think I'm hearing the horn play "Taps" now.

Harry - rust is never a good sign, especially when coming from under the unit!

Use is everything Fred.  Would that there was a 50 year commercial-grade unit.

The elements attract the minerals that are in the water Stephen, and the minerals will collect on them.  Failure happens when that collection reaches critical mass.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 4 years ago

This is very good information to share with home sellers. 

When we replaced a hot water heater, it was so clogged up that it could not be drained.

Posted by Roy Kelley (Realty Group Referrals) about 4 years ago

You must have abundant minerals in the water in Gaithersburg, Roy.

When I was a kid we went "way out" to Gaithersburg to go to the fair every year.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 4 years ago

Hi Jay Markanich Water heaters have a relatively short life (compared to the house) and are usually a good item for negotiation post-inspection. I ALWAYS ask the inspector to give an opinion about the remaining life of the water heater.

Bill Roberts

Posted by Bill Roberts, "Baby Boomer" Retirement Planner (Brooks and Dunphy Real Estate) about 4 years ago

Thanks for sharing Jay Markanich there is some great info here, hot water heaters do not live for ever.  I don't think I have seen many 20 + year old water heaters in my area though, must be lucky I guess. 

Posted by Nicholas Crane, Managing & Appraising Forest Land (Woodland Companies) about 4 years ago

Thank you for sharing your knowledge about water heaters.  If they are in a closet or attic we sometimes neglect to inspect. 

Posted by Kathryn J., Rentec Direct (Rentec Direct) about 4 years ago

That's hard to do, Bill!  It depends on how many people live in the house, how they use hot water, how hot they keep the heater - many variables!

Thanks Nicholas.  Life spans vary, but the 15-20 year thing is probably valid.

Kathryn - even when they are in the open they are often forgotten about until the hot water diminishes!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 4 years ago

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