Researching what factors contribute most to water heater failure?

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zwell

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What are the most important factors contributing to water heater failure? Here is our list of the most important factors that contribute to a water heat failure in order of importance:
  1. The number of years the water heater has been in service
  2. How much usage the hot water heater has had
  3. Where is the water heater located (inside, outside, garage)
  4. Has annual maintenance been performed regularly
  5. The overall water quality or water hardness
  6. The specific manufacturer/model (lemons vs. work horses)
  7. The fuel type i.e. natural gas, liquid propane, electric, solar, etc.
  8. The type of water heater itself i.e. tank, tankless, hybrid
  9. Where the person lives (extreme summer/winter temps)
Do you agree or disagree with the order of this list?

Did we miss anything?

Thanks,

Shilo
 
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zwell

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So, either this question is terribly worded or people don't want to be the first to chime in or maybe something else.

I thought of another other possible contributor to water heater failure:
  • Installed incorrectly in the first place / wasn't operated according to manufacturer expectations
Anyway, looking forward to hearing at least a couple of opinions from pros in the field.

Shilo
 

breplum

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Tank type water heaters fail primarily by rusting out.
Nearly 100 % of the water heaters we have replaced during the 47 years I have been in business are from leaking.
The anode rod depletes, is not replaced, and the micro cracks in the porcelain allow the steel tank to rust through.
 

Pat the Plumber CIL

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Back in the day when labor was cheaper it made a lot of sense to replace anode rod every couple years and flush out bottom of tank . In the disposable world we live in now with higher labor rates Install and replace when troubles arise . I would think water quality would have a lot to say about how long a heater lasts .
 

Copymutt

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X2, models are now sporting anodes welded in place. Just another kick in the pants to the diligent home owner.
 

Mitchell-DIY-Guy

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I have yet to have a water heater fail by leaking. (but I'm not a pro, just a homeowner) In my cases it was always the controls: something with the gas valve failing to keep the pilot lit, failing to light the burner, flame detector failure, the power vent simply crapping out, or similar. Never lost a tank.

I just sold a house in Michigan where we had a "perfect storm" of @zwell suggestions. It was a water heater in a garage. It was 13 years old. It was a Westinghouse (Lowe's brand) that others have indicated as junk. Worst of all, the water was absolutely atrocious quality! We did have a chemical free iron filter on the house; that made the water tolerable but not drinkable. It didn't remove all the iron, just a good deal of it. Aside from the iron content the water was really, really hard.

At the 11 year mark I decided to change the anode rod. I was astounded that the rod, which had a lot of "iron growth" on it, was actually in pretty good shape. If I hadn't destroyed it in taking it out, I would have scraped all the iron growth off of it, and put it back; the rod itself didn't seem to be in bad shape.

I replaced with one of those magnesium rods on a stainless steel cable made for replacement.
 

bowserb

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I have yet to have a water heater fail by leaking. (but I'm not a pro, just a homeowner) ...
Also just a homeowner, but EVERY water heater failure I've had (since my first house in 1973) failed with a leaking tank. Further, every house I've ever owned, plus one rented, has had at least one water heater fail. And now I have two in the attic. I feel like I'm living with time bombs.
 

Pat the Plumber CIL

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When I first started we only replaced due to leaking . Now with new combustion chambers on the gas models about 1/2 are replaced due to gas control nightmares . If these new ones don't breathe correctly they are nothing but problems
 

Mitchell-DIY-Guy

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Also just a homeowner, but EVERY water heater failure I've had (since my first house in 1973) failed with a leaking tank. Further, every house I've ever owned, plus one rented, has had at least one water heater fail. And now I have two in the attic. I feel like I'm living with time bombs.
Yep, time bombs. It takes a special kind of fool to think an attic is a good place for a water heater.
You probably inherited this, but if this is a house you own, best move them. Nothing good will come from an attic location.
 

zwell

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Tank type water heaters fail primarily by rusting out.
Nearly 100 % of the water heaters we have replaced during the 47 years I have been in business are from leaking.
The anode rod depletes, is not replaced, and the micro cracks in the porcelain allow the steel tank to rust through.
Thanks @breplum that makes total sense and is consistent with what I've been hearing from others in the trade. I would suggest based on that feedback that where the water heater is located is much less important so I am going to move that down on the list.
 

zwell

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When I first started we only replaced due to leaking . Now with new combustion chambers on the gas models about 1/2 are replaced due to gas control nightmares . If these new ones don't breathe correctly they are nothing but problems
Thanks @Pat the Plumber CIL, based on that feedback I am going to move fuel type higher up on the list.
 

zwell

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Back in the day when labor was cheaper it made a lot of sense to replace anode rod every couple years and flush out bottom of tank . In the disposable world we live in now with higher labor rates Install and replace when troubles arise . I would think water quality would have a lot to say about how long a heater lasts .
@Pat the Plumber CIL do you think water quality would rank higher than annual maintenance not being performed?
 

Fmkehoe

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All of my personal water heaters over the years have failed due to leaks.
A kind of funny story, we had a friend babysitting our kids while we were out one day. There was snow on the ground but it was a warm day. The water heater sprung a pretty significant leak, and our friend saw the water coming in to the family room in the basement and just figured it was snow melting. What a knucklehead.
 

Jamesplumbing06

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Water. God made. Steel. Man made. I give ya 3 guesses what makes them go bad. And the first 2 guesses don’t count. Man can’t contain the power of nature or god forever. Expect replacement.
 
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