5 Signs It’s Time to Replace Your Water Heater

African descent kid enjoying bath tub July 11, 2019

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, about 18 percent of all energy used in a house goes to heating water, making it the second largest source of energy usage.

Most people can benefit from more information on how to identify when their water heater needs repairs or is about to fail. If ignored until the water heater breaks, homes can be without hot water and, possibly with a flooded basement.

Good news!  You can avoid the disruption and damage of a failing water heater.


Five signs that it may be time to replace your water heater:

1. Leaks or Pools of Water Around the Water Heater Tank – Leaks are never a good sign. Water puddles can be a sign that a valve needs to be tightened or replaced. Leaks and corrosion can also mean that the water heater has reached the end of its life and may be at risk of bursting. Drips and leaks can escalate. Consult with a plumber to see if repairs are possible, or if it is time for a new water heater.

2. Lukewarm Water Even at the Hottest Temperature Setting – Have your showers recently been lukewarm despite having your shower handle at the hottest temperature setting? Is it taking longer to get hot water from the tap? A common sign of a failing water heater is a lack of sufficient hot water. Consult with a plumber to see if the water heater needs flushing or other repairs, or if a water heater replacement is in order.

3. Contaminated Water Coming Out of the Faucet – The contaminated water can come in many different forms:

    • Sandy or muddy water
    • Hot water with a metallic taste or smell
    • Water with rust particles

First, determine if the contamination is in your cold or hot water.  If only hot water is affected, the problem may lie with the water heater.  Flushing the tank’s contents to remove sediment or replacing the sacrificial anode rod may solve this problem. If left unaddressed, this issue can worsen and lead to rust damaging the inside of the tank and ultimately the need for a new water heater. Consult a plumber to see what maintenance or repairs can be done to prolong the life of the water heater.\

4. Repairs Keep Adding Up –Are you calling for repairs to your water heater more than twice a year? If so, start planning your water heater replacement, and avoid the hassle of an emergency replacement.

5. Water Heater is Over 10 Years Old – An important question to ask yourself when deciding to replace your water heater is “How long has the water heater been in my house?” ENERGY STAR recommends replacing your storage water heater if it is over 10 years old. A decline in the performance of the water heater due to age is inevitable. Be proactive and replace it with an ENERGY STAR-certified water heater before it fails.

Water heater replacement may be costly upfront, but upgrading to an ENERGY STAR-certified, energy-efficient water heater can save you more money in long-term. In fact, ENERGY STAR natural gas storage and tankless water heaters use about 10 percent less energy compared to standard gas water heaters and can save your household hundreds of dollars over its lifetime.

Did you know, Washington Gas offers rebates to help you replace old water heaters and upgrade to new high-efficiency models. You can save up to $400 on a new ENERGY STAR certified water heater for your home. Through the Washington Gas Maryland Existing Home Program, Maryland customers can take advantage of natural gas appliance rebates. To qualify, eligible equipment must be purchased and installed by a qualified participating contractor in the Washington Gas EmPOWER Contractor Network. Get started by visiting WashingtonGasRebates.com/MDHome today.

If your contractor doesn’t take away your old hot water heater, make sure to dispose of your old one correctly by scheduling a curbside scrap metal pickup from your home or bringing it to the Transfer Station. Learn more at www.montgomerycountymd.gov/scrapmetal.

Written by Fiona Ryan, Marketing Specialist with Washington Gas, a WGL Company.

34 comments on "5 Signs It’s Time to Replace Your Water Heater"

  1. I didn’t know that you should have your water heater replaced if it is over 10 years old since it can become less efficient over time. My uncle has owned his water heater for at least 13 years, and he isn’t sure if water heaters need to be replaced. I’ll let him know that he should find a service that can replace his water old water heater with one that will function more effectively.

    1. Larissa Johnson says:

      Thank you for spreading the word Stefan. Also, please note that utilities have rebates for water heater replacements so make sure you go to the utilities website for more information.

  2. That was a good point that if your water starts to have a lack of sufficient hot water it might be time for a replacement. I’ve been having a hard time getting my shower as hot as I would like it to be and putting it on the hottest setting doesn’t even help. Maybe I should look into water heater replacement services and get a new system.

    1. Larissa says:

      We are glad that this article was helpful. If you do replace your hot water heater, remember that Montgomery County has a $250 property tax credit program that you could apply to: https://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/Finance/Resources/Files/data/taxes/renewable_energy_tax_credit_application.pdf

  3. I’m glad that you mentioned the reason muddy-looking water coming out of your faucets can be a good indication it’s time to replace your water heater. I was a little alarmed this morning when my sink water was a brownish color! I’ll have to start looking at new gas water heaters and get it taken care of soon so I can take a nice hot shower.

    1. Larissa Johnson says:

      We are so glad that you found this article helpful. Don’t forget that there are rebates available depending on who your utility provider is…if you have Washington Gas, they have some programs available: https://www.washingtongas.com/home-owners/savings/water-heating-rebates-md

      Best of luck,

      DEP Team Energy

  4. Kate Hansen says:

    It was helpful when you said that a sign could be a lack of hot water. Last night my daughter was complaining about how the shower would not get warm even when the shower handle was on the hottest temperature setting. I’ll have to look into calling a plumber to come and inspect it to see what’s wrong.

    1. Larissa Johnson says:

      So glad that you found this blog post helpful. Best of luck with your water heater. We are here if you have additional questions.

      DEP Energy

  5. These are all great reasons to replace a water heater. Having your appliance inspected by an experienced and qualified plumber will go a long way in letting you know what route to take.

    1. Larissa Johnson says:

      Thank you Water Heater Replacement Mason! We couldn’t agree more than working with an experienced and qualified plumber will go a long way in letting you know what route to take! If you have other energy saving tips and tricks, we would love to hear them!

  6. We planned to spend our vacation at my brother’s beach house this year and when we went to test if everything was working, some of the faucets didn’t seem quite right. I appreciate your article for stating that lukewarm water coming out when you expect hot water is a reason to get a replacement because every faucet in the house couldn’t make any water that was hotter than your usual tap water and I was thinking if this was just a coincidence or if it meant something more serious. I’ll be sure to get a plumber to check out the beach house and make any necessary replacements before vacation. Thank you!

    1. Larissa Johnson says:

      We are so glad that this helped you out! Hope you have an amazing summer vacation!

  7. My sister has been complaining that her water heart is producing an odd smell, and on top of that, it’s not producing enough hot water as well. I never knew that it’s possible to have rust and a metallic taste in the water heater, I’d make sure to check for any signs. Maybe it’s best if I’ll start looking for an installation service so they may proceed with the work.

    1. Larissa Johnson says:

      Rachel – please do get someone to look at the water heater – it is better to be overly cautious than to have to purchase something quickly! Let us know if you want to share your story about the process! Thank you 🙂

  8. Ajjordan says:

    Thanks to spreading this awesome content.

  9. I never knew that a failing water heater could release weird-colored water when using it. I called my mom recently and she mentioned that this, along with a distant odor, is coming from her water heater. I believe leaving this to an experts o that it’ll get repaired or replaced is a good idea.

    1. Larissa Johnson says:

      Yes, please do contact an expert and if you do replace your hot water heater, remember that Montgomery County has a $250 property tax credit program that you could apply to: https://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/Finance/Resources/Files/data/taxes/renewable_energy_tax_credit_application.pdf

  10. Terrica Arden says:

    Very helpful article!! I’ve been looking for emergency water heater replacement rockwall tx providers who could fix my leakage problems too. I just got promoted to another state and had to move in to a new house on urgent basis. I didn’t have the time to set it up or fix the plumbing issues so I got in contact with Wasden Plumbing Services. The process was very fast and smooth, I did not need to call them again. I would recommend contacting them for a fuss free fixature and emergency plumbing.

    1. Larissa Johnson says:


      If you are looking for a new hot water heater, know that there are programs in Maryland to help you – it depends on your utility supplier so check out http://www.MontgomeryEnergyConnection.org for more information – if Pepco is your utility supplies then check this out: https://homeenergysavings.pepco.com/appliance-rebate-program/overview/electric-heat-pump-water-heater

  11. Thanks for the tip that it’s time to get a water heater system repair if I start finding muddy water from my faucet. I’d like to get such services soon because I’ve been trying to get hot baths at night lately. With the fall coming, the night are starting to get colder and colder.

    1. Larissa Johnson says:


      The nights are starting to get colder and colder so if you are a Pepco resident, check this out: https://homeenergysavings.pepco.com/appliance-rebate-program/overview/electric-heat-pump-water-heater – if you have additional questions, http://www.MontgomeryEnergyConnection.org for more information.

  12. Thank you for mentioning what kind of water you shouldn’t be seeing from your hot water heater. This reminds me of what I’ve been seeing lately from our unit, and I better act quickly before it gets even worse. I’ll go and look for any plumbing services that can assist me with this immediately.

    1. Larissa Johnson says:

      Afton, we are glad that you found this article helpful, if you are in Pepco service territory, take a look at their approved contractors when looking for someone to come into your home: https://homeenergysavings.pepco.com/home-performance-with-energy-star-program/overview/participating-contractors

  13. Luke Smith says:

    I like that you pointed out how leaks and corrosion could mean that the water heater has reached the end of its life and may be at risk of bursting. I was cleaning around our water heater tank the other day and I noticed that there are pools of water around it. That isn’t a good sign so we should probably call for water heater replacement services and have them work on our heater.

  14. Happy Hiller says:

    Thank you for sharing this information! I only want to add that rumbling is another sign that your water heater needs to be replaced. As time goes on, sediment builds up inside the water heater tank. As the water heater heats this up time after time, it becomes hard and starts to move around in the tank. This causes a rumbling noise.

  15. Please note that ten years is not an age of replacement for on-demand water heaters. While a storage water heater last 10 to 15 years, tankless heaters have a much longer life expectancy. You can expect your unit to last for more than 20 years.

  16. ESCO says:

    When replacing your water heater and choosing between the tank and tankless water heaters, remember that tankless heaters are 24–34 percent more energy-efficient than a traditional tank in households using less than 41 gallons of hot water daily. The only disadvantage is that such water heaters are more expensive to install.

  17. An old unit definitely feels like something that shouldn’t be kept around anymore of it isn’t efficient. Our water heater definitely feels like this, and I can see us benefitting from a unit that has more up-to-date features now that we take hot showers more often. I’ll take your advice and look for a plumbing service that can help us with a replacement water heater right away.

    1. Larissa Johnson says:

      And don’t forget that if you are making any changes to check out the IRA Savings Calculator from Rewiring America as it may tell you how much money you can get to replace your water heater: https://www.rewiringamerica.org/app/ira-calculator

  18. In summary, there are five clear signs that indicate it’s time to replace your water heater. If you notice any of these signs in your home, don’t hesitate to take action. Ignoring them could lead to further damage and higher costs down the line. Replacing an old or faulty water heater not only improves efficiency and safety but also ensures you have reliable hot water when you need it. So if you’ve noticed any of the five signs mentioned in this article, contact a qualified plumber today for a replacement. Don’t wait until it’s too late!

  19. Recognizing the signs that it’s time to replace your water heater is crucial for maintaining a reliable and efficient system. The blog post from My Green Montgomery provides valuable insights into identifying these signs, such as age, inefficiency, and frequent repairs. By paying attention to these indicators, homeowners can proactively replace their water heaters before they cause unexpected breakdowns or increased energy costs. Thank you, My Green Montgomery, for sharing this informative article!

  20. Thanks for pointing out that sandiness is also one of the things to watch out for when maintaining a water heater. I’d like to find a good water heater replacement service soon because I want to get a bathroom renovation soon. Replacing my old heater might be a good idea considering how much it malfunctioned over the previous winter.

  21. I recently noticed water puddles around my water heater tank, and I knew something was wrong. Leaks are never a good sign, so I called a plumber right away. It turned out that my water heater had reached the end of its life, and it was time for a replacement. I’m glad I took action before it burst! Safety should always be a priority.

  22. Daisy James says:

    It was really helpful when you said that water taking a long time to heat up is a bad sign. Both my husband and I have noticed how the water in our house takes a lot longer to heat up for the past couple of weeks, so I was wondering if that meant that something could be wrong with our water heater. We’ll have to look into hiring a plumber that can install one for us as soon as possible.

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