RT Cunningham

My Aging Electric Water Heater – How Long will it Last?

As I sit and do my thing in my outdoor man cave, I usually only have an electric water heater to keep me company.

It was installed when the house was built and it wasn’t installed correctly.

I guess it doesn’t matter because it’s served me faithfully for more than nine years.

How much longer it’ll serve me is what I’d like to know.

Electric Water Heater Installation

It’s pretty easy to install an electric water heater if you know what you’re doing. The guy who installed mine didn’t. He used galvanized steel pipe fittings instead of flex pipes. He was nothing more than a general laborer. The contractor didn’t hire a certified plumber to do the job. My wife, Josie, and I were in the United States when this phase of construction was going on or I would have made sure it was installed correctly.

The outdoor plumbing lines for my house have gate valves and check valves all over the place. There’s two at the electric water heater, one for the water going in and one for the water going out. The one going out was placed a few inches after a check valve. I can hear the water running and I can hear the check valve kick in when it stops.

I understand why the guy put in a lot of check valves, but not at the water heater. We live on a hill, at the end of a road. When the water supply is cut off, the water can travel in the other direction. That can’t happen with the water heater because of how the tank works. Again, he wasn’t a plumber. He was winging it.

When it comes time to replace the water heater, I may not be doing the work but I’ll definitely supervise it. After all, I’ll be the one buying it along with a few flex pipes.

Replacing the Electric Water Heater

When it comes to replacing an electric water heater, it won’t be my first rodeo. I’ve already done it twice, in different places, and it wasn’t hard. The water heater I have now has the name “U.S. Craftsman” on it and it holds 28 gallons. It’s small compared to the water heaters I’ve seen at most homes in the United States. I haven’t seen any others here in the Philippines but I don’t get around much and I certainly don’t inspect other people’s water supplies.

I did a search at Lazada and found one even smaller, holding only 19 gallons. It’s the perfect size for the number of people living in my house at any given time. Most of us don’t take hot showers every day. It’s usually humid and hot and a cold shower is preferred over a hot one. We don’t do a lot of laundry – we don’t have children going through a ton of clothing every day. It costs between 20,000 and 22,000 pesos or USD $421 and $463 at today’s foreign currency exchange rate.

The U.S. Craftsman brand is made by the A. O. Smith corporation in Tennessee, so my electric water heater is American-made like my washer and dryer set (Whirlpool Corporation). I only know that because the washer and dryer are both marked with the USA label, not the Philippines label (they make a cheaper type with the name of Whirlpool on them in the Philippines and yes, they’re owned by the Whirlpool Corporation as well).

How Long will my Electric Water Heater Last?

That depends on who I ask. From what I understand through various places on the net, an electric water heater is supposed to last about 15 years. Five years longer than a gas water heater. I have no doubt mine will last until the 10-year mark, which should be in September or October. I don’t know how much longer it will last after that.

It’s heavily corroded on the outside (like most appliances get in the Philippines) but that doesn’t have a thing to do with the inside. We drained the tank a month ago and released most of the sediment after we fixed the breaker switch to the electrical outlet above it.

It always takes a few minutes for the hot water to reach us in the master bedroom shower. It can take longer when the water pressure is low and it’s often low. We share the main line from the meter with the other three houses in my compound and when the children are getting ready to go to school, the pressure really drops.

I suspect my electric water heater will last longer than 15 years. It’ll probably look like hell on the outside long before it dies completely.

February 17, 2016

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