If you know how old your water heater is, you’re a better record keeper than most homeowners. Unless it was installed in recent years, the water heater’s installation date isn’t something most of us have committed to memory. And if you’ve moved into an older home, the appliance’s age is an even bigger mystery.
A water heater’s average lifespan is around 10 to 15 years. Knowing how much longer it has left can help you plan for a replacement.
How To Decode Your Water Heater’s Age
If water heater manufacturers were more like the auto industry, we’d have models like the 2020 A.O. Smith Signature Series or something like that and you’d never have to wonder when it was made. But they don’t, so learning a water heater’s manufacturing date takes a little digging.
Find the rating plate: The appliance’s rating plate contains the unit’s technical specifications — model number, BTU, capacity, etc. It’s usually near the warning label and energy guide on the tank. Locate the serial number because it should contain a clue.
Interpret the serial number: There are dozens of water heater brands, and they all bake the manufacturing date into the serial number. Because only six or so companies produce all the major water heater brands, they all more or less follow the same format: The first four digits suggest the date, followed by a string of other numbers. For example, a serial number reading 1015A33968 likely means that the appliance was made in October 2015.
Some brands begin the serial number with a number. The letter represents the month the water heater was manufactured in many cases. (Example: A for January, B for February, C for March and so on.) The numbers following the letter likely indicate the year and sequence of production. Again, this is a general guideline. It does not apply to all brands because some like Bradford White are trickier to decode. Serial numbers on Bradford White models begin with two letters representing the year and month of manufacture. The letters rotate every 20 years, so ‘A’ could mean 1964, 1984, or 2004. Your best bet is to refer to Bradford White’s helpful guide.
Signs Your Water Heater Is Due For Replacement
Of course, your water heater’s performance can also suggest that it’s past its prime. Look out for the following red flags:
- Leaks: Moisture or puddles around the base point could result from pressure build-up inside the tank. If the appliance’s relief valve isn’t working, pressure can build up to a dangerous level. Contact a plumber right away.
- Rusty water: Discolored water may mean that the unit’s steel lining is corroding or that the sacrificial anode rod needs to be replaced.
- Unusual noises: A knocking or rumbling sound is likely water bubbling up through deposits at the bottom of the tank. Have your water heater flushed to prevent further deterioration.