When Does a Hot Water System Need Full Replacement for Practical Reasons?

March 21, 2019

Hot water system owners don’t like to be left in the lurch. They surely don’t want to wait until their water taps and shower heads go permanently cold. No, whether the equipment is installed in a home or a business, the occupants who are enjoying the toasty heat need to know if their gear is about to bite the big one. Forewarned, they can prepare their wallets for a replacement unit.

Observable Signs and Symptoms

A bather might notice an occasional pressure drop and a lack of hot water. The equipment is aging. That reservoir of warm bathing water just doesn’t last as long anymore. On the other hand, perhaps the occupants have just moved in, so they have no idea how long the hot water system has been performing its duties. Unsure of things, the property owner decides to leave the unit alone for one more year. Now, because this is the way things always happen, the appliance breaks down at the worst possible moment. There are probably guests in the property, the hot water is in high demand, and it chooses that moment to break down. With that in mind, don’t make assumptions. Call out a repair engineer to see if the accumulating system defects suggest a serious underlying problem.

Is a Full Meltdown on the Way?

It’s easier to navigate the following clues if the suspect property’s occupant has been living with the hot water system for over a decade. Generally speaking, that’s how long the components are designed to last. After 8 years have passed, faults occur more often because of parts fatigue. After 10 years, things are looking downright dire, with the appliance kicking out bits of unidentifiable matter. Assuming this is a branded, high-performance unit, a 12-to-15 year lifespan is possible, at which point the whole structure begins its inevitable collapse towards appliance oblivion. Tankless models have managed to extend this period, so a 20-year lifespan isn’t unusual for those compact appliances.

Assuming a system owner has been with the equipment for over a decade, they’ll know the components are fatigued. It’s harder for a new occupant to make this determination, but the equipment label should contain lifespan info. Otherwise, it’s back to the symptomatic approach. The water is probably laden with particulate matter. Some of it’s rust, some could be decomposed anode material, and some will be mineral particulate matter. Accompanying these signs of an irreversible breakdown, cold showers seem to be the new norm and the burners/elements are eternally on the fritz. Maintenance work can extend the system lifespan, but there’s no way to avoid that eventual termination date, at which point a replacement system becomes the only viable option.

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