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Hot water heaters are appliances in our homes that we completely forget about…until they fail. Instant emergency! When is it going to go? During a holiday, a vacation or when out of town family or friends are about to arrive. Avoiding that emergency is easy to do with a little knowledge.

The average life of a typical hot water heater is about 10-12 years and as we all know “time flies” so if you want to be in charge of eliminating an emergency hot water tank changeout, check on the installation date of your heater. If it’s approaching 12 years old, get it changed on your timeline, not your tanks.

So what determines when your tank will fail? Most tanks come with warranties ranging between 6 and 12 years against leaking and there is a difference in the tanks themselves within these warranty periods. When you buy a 12-year tank over a 6-year you are not just buying an extended warranty on the tank. The main difference between tanks is that they each come with a different component called an anode rod.

The anode rod is a sacrificial rod that absorbs the corrosion that will eventually cause your tank to leak. Rather than the water rusting the metal in your tank, the anode corrodes away, getting shorter and shorter throughout the years until it has eroded away completely. Once the rod is gone, the metal in your tank starts to corrode and then the end is very near.

A six-year tank for instance has a minimal anode rod. An eight-year tank has an anode that is about 65% larger and the best twelve-year tank has two anodes or about 130% more anode than the standard six-year tank. So, the more anode we have to start with, the longer your tank will last.

If you are planning on staying in your home for more than 6 years, the better value would be to get one of the better warrantied tanks as they will certainly last longer. Better warranty tanks also add value in that they typically have a larger burner that will recover faster as you use water to prevent that cold water blast at the end of your shower. Another feature of the better tanks is they have superior insulation to keep operating costs down and a brass vs. plastic drain valve that will actually close rather than break off when you use it.