Drain faucet on an old residential water heater in a home renovation project.

No matter how well built and meticulously maintained, no appliance lasts forever. Your water heater is no exception. But because it’s typically out of sight and out of mind, it’s easy to forget about until a problem arises. However, as a water heater approaches the 10 year mark, it becomes susceptible to problems above and beyond just losing its ability to efficiently heat water. In fact, it has the potential to be dangerous.

Here are some risks of not paying attention to your aging water heater.

Mold Growth

A leaking water heater becomes at risk for mold growth. Leaking pipes, valves, and connectors can create the perfect environment for mold to thrive in. Not only does mold pose a serious health risk, it can also cause structural issues in a home. If you see puddling around your water heater, address it immediately to prevent mold from growing.

Sediment Build-Up

Sediment can build up over time on the inside of the water heater tank, providing an ideal environment for bacteria to thrive in, which can make the water unsafe to drink. Excess lime build-up can provide a corrosive environment that can eat away at the metal from the inside of the tank. This can lead to bursts or explosions in old water heaters as the metal becomes too weak to hold the pressure.

Critter Infestations

Small critters like the warmth of a water heater and will often nest near it. Rats and mice can chew on wires and insulation, damaging the water heater and creating a fire hazard. Keep the area around your water heater clear and free of any debris. If you notice signs of pest infestation (especially near your water heater), contact a pest control company right away and contact a licensed plumber to inspect your water heater for damage.

Electrical Shortages and Outages

As an electric water heater ages, you may start to notice more power outages and shortages. This is because the heating element in an electric water heater can short circuit, trip the breaker, or blow a fuse.

Blocked Valves

Older water heaters may have trouble maintaining proper water pressure as valves begin to fail. Over time, sediment and minerals can build up in the valves, causing blockages which lead to a loss of water pressure or even a complete loss of hot water.


A build-up of sediment in the tank can cause a water heater to overheat. The burners in an aging water heater have to work harder to bring the water to the proper temperature which means they stay on longer. This can lead to serious problems, like skin burns from water that is too hot and even a tank rupture that can send hot water flooding into your basement or wherever your water heater is located.

While regular maintenance certainly helps extend a water heater’s life and minimizes some of the potential dangers, the older the unit is, the less efficient it becomes. If your water heater is approaching the 10-year mark, it’s time to think about and budget for replacement. Contact Zach Heating & Cooling today for a free proposal today. We look forward to serving you.