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When to Replace an Old Water Heater: An Interview with Nate Nesbitt of Nesbitt's Plumbing

By Nathan Nesbitt

Tell us a little bit about your company and the services you offer.

Nesbitts Plumbing LLC was established in 1986 and serves Western North Carolina. Services include new plumbing for residential, remodels and commercial properties. We also handle all types of plumbing service and repair. The only thing we will not do is drain and sewer cleaning.

What is the typical lifespan of an old water heater? Are there certain conditions that would shorten or lengthen that?

An old water heater is any heater past its manufacture warranty. Lifespan of an old heater can be less than 5 years after the warranty. To lengthen the lifespan of a water heater the owner should either flush the tank once a year or hire a qualified plumbing company to complete the tank flushing. Have the anode rod changed to prevent tank corrosion. Homeowners should also check the water pressure coming into the house( if on city water supply) to make sure the Pressure reducing valve is operating properly. High water pressure can cause small cracks in old tanks. Not doing these things will shorten the life of the water heater.

Can you describe some of the most common signs that a heater needs to be replaced?

Rust on exterior side of tank. Water leaking from anywhere in the heater. In general electric water heaters last 8-10 years and gas water heaters can last 10-12 years. Again it all depends on the water quality and the brand of heater bought. You get what you pay for.

What are some of the main differences between old water heaters and the new ones that are available today?

All heaters have to meet the current energy code so the insulation is thicker. Electric models have not changed much. Gas heaters have lots more technology involved. Automatic lighting. Safety and pressure switches to name a couple of things.

How can getting a new heater affect energy efficiency and long-term homeowner costs?

Getting a new water heater will make heating water more efficient because of the insulation around the tank. Its thicker and therefore keeps the heat loss to a minimum. Long term costs would have to be calculated. Just check the energy guide rating for the heater.

Do you have any tips to help homeowners who need to decide what type of new heater to get?

Tankless heaters are good if you are single or if you have an endless need for hot water. Tankless does not have to store heated water which is a good thing. However users tend to use more water which in turn burns more gas which leads to higher water and gas bills because tankless heaters supply owners with endless hot water. Cost savings are questionable but tankless does have its place for sure.

Gas tank heaters are versatile. They can provide you domestic hot water needs as well as hydronic heating needs and usually cost less than installing a tankless heater. Gas tank heaters have a good heat recovery rating and are a nice option to have.

Electric water heaters are the old standby. You can put one anywhere you can get power and water to the unit. Great for small homes or smaller hot water needs. This is the most common water heater that people want installed.

What's the best way for people to contact you and your company?

We can be reached by phone at 828-329-1032 during business hours which are from 8am-5pm. After hours we can be reached at 828-779-7915 or anytime on the internet at and fill out the contact form.

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