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Water Heaters

An ongoing series of informational entries

What about the water heater?


     I am often asked during a home inspection, "What about the water heater?"  Water heaters are expensive and seem to fail without warning. 

     During an inspection we look for indicators like rust, gurgling noises, and location to try to determine the life expectancy of water heaters. The truth is they rust from the inside out and sometimes you can't see a failure that is about to happen.  Manufacturers and Inspector's Associations publish life cycle data as guidelines to help but they can be way off depending on water quality and other factors.  We take all the information we can gather to inform buyers about the condition of the water heater.

     Sometimes I'm surprised at the age of water heaters i see.  Two of my inspections last week had water heaters still going well beyond what anyone could have predicted.  The unit in the photo above was original in a home built in 1988 and still quietly just doing its job delivering hot water. The other one was a 42 years old and still working like new.  In contrast, there was also the house with a seven year old unit that had rust stains and water below it signalling that it was about to deliver a cold morning shower or a flooded garage.

     When I inspect a water heater, i will use the date of manufacture, listen for noises that are not normal, use a flashlight and mirror if needed,  and see if it delivers hot water.  That is just the list for the appliance itself. Strapping, and plumbing to and from the water heater are also inspected.

     I have heard of Inspectors getting stung by a failed water heater a short time after an inspection. The truth is it could happen to any one of us.  Some things  you just can't detect.  i will try to find and report every defect. 

     For most people a home purchase is the biggest investment they will ever make.  Get inspections! Go look at the house more than once and at different times of day. Use the information to make a good investment because surprises are for birthdays!