The condo I just moved into has an original 2001 gas water heater that is missing a few features one would like to see in 2015, such as inspectable anodes. The home inspector pointed this out as a potential problem but only due to the heater's age; not due to any kind of malfunction.

Is this the kind of job where one should wait until the heater starts to malfunction? Is there a recommended replacement schedule one should use? Are newer models efficient enough that it makes sense to replace it anyway?

  • Gas, electric, oil? – Ecnerwal Jul 14 '15 at 13:41
  • A gas heater will not have anodes. – Wayfaring Stranger Jul 14 '15 at 15:09
  • @wayfaring the ones on sale and the one I installed before in a previous home did/do. – Billy ONeal Jul 14 '15 at 16:21
  • I would not wait for a 14-year-old water heater to fail before replacing it. It's kind of like playing Russian roulette with your condo. – BillDOe Jul 14 '15 at 18:58
  • If it isn't broken why would you fix it? Any efficiency gain is unlikely to pay for itself, amortized. Natural gas is relatively cheap right now. Most tank failures start as a slow seep or leak, so keep an eye on it, especially if it is located inside your home. – Jimmy Fix-it Jul 15 '15 at 2:53

Your other question implies that it's gas. Yes, there are more efficent gas units (as well as more efficient electric heat-pump units) available now. (Electric resistance units are really about the same since they started using a reasonable amount of insulation on them.)

Waiting for the one you have to fail may mean water damage and replacing it in a hurry, which can negatively impact your ability to shop around and get exactly what you want. You are certainly past the usual "lifetime" of a water heater already, though that can vary with water quality/chemistry.

In some areas significant rebates are available on heat pump water heaters, which are otherwise expensive, but which can (compare YOUR local rates for each) actually be cheaper than gas to run, especially if the "moderate A/C effect" is beneficial in your climate.

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  • Yes, it is gas. EnergyGuide label on the old one says 268 therms/year; new ones without new ducting are around 217 therms/ year. – Billy ONeal Jul 14 '15 at 16:24

Most newer water heaters don't last as long as they used to. Try to find out what kind of warranty your water heater has. If it has less than a 10 year warranty, then it is only a matter of time before it fails.

The majority of new heaters will be much more efficient than what you have. Keep an eye on the energy ratings. There are some that perform better than others. Some heaters are also "smart". They are programmable and will heat water at certain times of the day such as in the morning when people are typically showering. There are also tankless water heaters which are very efficient. Since you have gas, that would be an excellent option.

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