6 vs 9 vs 12 year water heaters? Which is best?

26 Replies

I've been buying the 9 year water heaters lately from Home Depot and have been thinking about purchasing the 12 year heaters from now on but is there really that much of a difference between a 6 year and a 12 year other than the warranty? I've heard they use 2 anodes in a 12 year. Is it really worth the extra money, sometimes over $200-250 more than the 6 year tank? I plan on flushing all my heaters once in the spring and once in the fall every year and replacing the anodes every 3 years or so. I've done some research and found many people say the 9 and 12 year tanks are just a rip off. I want to buy the best product for the value. What do you put into your properties and generally with proper maintenance, how long are they lasting? 

I see alot of 12-18 year old tanks in the properties I purchase and aside from being limed up, they function. I just replace them with a new one to save hassles later.

The water heater in my own house lasted 25 years before it finally experienced a rust pinhole. Hard water actually helps preserve a water heater by lining the inside. Mineral build up is hard on gas water heaters, because you heat from the bottom and the mineral build up makes them have to run longer, but on an electric heater it's just build-up on the heating rods, which can be replaced, and of course maintaining your anode. If you maintain the anode you are likely to get a very long life out of the heater. 

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@Samantha Klein

Your water/maintanance will determine how long the heater will last not the cost or warranty length. We have numerous 25-possibly 40 yr old electric water heaters that simply need and element replaced and a cleaning every few years. These have high lime content water. We also have a 4 plex with 4 6 yr heaters with high iron water that has never needed service.(15 yrs) These have high Iron water.  We have gotten really good at maintaining the heaters and learning their nuances. I don't remember the last water heater we replaced....Oh wait.. I do... It was a fancy gas power vented unit that was installed when I had focus on energy do energy upgrades..1800 bucks.. So never buy these units.. I have a few of them that need regular service by a contractor..

Just thought I would follow up..

You know the saying about karma..

Just had 2 water heater tanks go in one week.. No repairing these ones.. One was 23 yrs old one was 25. 

Don't buy many really. I would say fleet farm. 

These were 28 gallon shortys that had to be special ordered, fortunatly I found one at menards that was never picked up they sold me that one last week. When I realized how hard these were to get I ordered one from ace to deliver to the store in my home town. It is in today, I'm going to pick up right now and install ugh!

I read a post of yours about th .8 toilets.. How are those working out?? I was reluctant to purchase as the only thing as bad as wasting water is unclogging toilets. I asked my plumber buddy about them he said they double flush so much that the savings wasn't much?? Just curious to here your experience. I just bought a 22 unit with about 19 1977 5 gallon a flush toilets. Tanks is aboutthe size of a mini fridge lol. Replaced 6 so far with the 1.2s.. Was considering .8s but just wasn't sure.

Thanks Peter

Honestly all we've installed were 10 year heaters, it really depends on the water that's going through it. To be honest most water heaters last between 10 and 15 years, very rarely will they fail before the 10 year mark, Ive replaced so many that hit the 10 to 12 year mark and they let loose, some have been 20 years.

I hear people say they have to double flush the 0.8 ones but I have them in all my units and my personal unit and very rarely does it not go down the first time. All of my tenants like them. I've had no complaints and they've been installed in some for almost a year.

@Samantha Klein

Not sure who your electric provider is, but Central Wisconsin Electric Coop has some pretty big rebates on new water Heaters. Like 100 bucks on a new electric to electric. They will pay for the entire tank if swaping gas to electric. Learned this while scrambling last week to find these 28s. 

I'll have to look into the .8 toilets. I have a four plex where the water costs more than tap beer lol. 

Thanks for sharing


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The Cu plumbing on older style heater was thicker then. Both me and utility company service man got a 6 year design dated from 1999 and both work well. However, for personal use I recommend the most expensive warranty as the labor involved is cost prohibitive. A 6 year heater crapped out after 1.5 year, thermocouple was defective.  

The 9 vs 12 year often is you are paying for 3 year warranty for same heater. You can buy warranty and see it is cheaper. Now, I am dealing with tankless H2O heater, a totally different ball game. Way way more costly than regular heater.

what we have been doing is when we buy a property, if the water heater is older, we replace it with an electric, even if its a gas one, they are $300 to buy and $150-200 to have replaced, last one my PM did was $534 and he ran new wire back to the panel for it, I use the electrics because they are about half the cost of a gas, and one less source of Carbon Monoxide, we also always put Isolation valves and flexible connections in so when we need to replace its quick and easy.  we buy the 6 year ones, get about 10 out of them

Hello! I run a plumbing distribution company and sell wholesale to contractors. So I see a lot of heater sales and warranties as well. You are correct that the heaters used to last a very long time however Ive noticed since the government guidelines (NAECA) have changed the standard requirements of water heaters it seems that most tank type water heaters typically last 6-10 years on average. Obviously there are many factors that determine the lifespan of a hot water heater (i.e. geological location, water condition and correct water heater sizing to name a few). With that being said I see most professional plumbers buying 6yr heaters. The warranty for basically any water heater is parts and labor one year and the tank itself is what is warrantied for the entire 6yr timeframe. So it really depends on if you pay a plumber to install your heater they will still charge you to install the replacement heater if it’s been over a year but you would still get a replacement heater at no charge (warranty on this heater now only is warrantied the remainder of the original heaters warranty). So to me your better of getting a 6 yr heater and saving the upfront money because when you do replace the next heater you’ll have the new warranty to work off of. I also recommend calling the manufacturer from the date of install so the warranty is activated and they have record of it. If you don’t you could get short changed on the life of the warranty (example would be if the heater sat on the inventory shelf for a year prior to you buying). I think it’s great if you do maintenance on your tank water heater but frankly most people and professionals don’t do any. Tankless water heaters do require a yearly flush but that’s a different topic. Hope this helps, any questions on heaters or plumbing please let me know.

If you visit your local plumbing supply house or if you have a Ferguson nearby you can buy a kit for $25 that will add a second anode rod to your heater (threads in where the cold nipple is) If bought through Ferguson and they sell Bradford White the kit (now $150 for the same kit) will extend your warranty from 6 year (the only tank they make) to a 10 year. You can either buy the kit for $150 and get a sticker that extends your warranty, buy the kit a la carte and have some kind of piece of mind knowing you have that extra anode, or change your anode rod every couple years ($20 in materials) if you can get to it. A lot of water heaters are in areas with low clearances and you'll never get the new anode in unless its a "sausage link" type.

Some supply house heaters will give you other reasons to buy theirs vs big box (Rheem/AO Smith) such as made in America, brass drain ****, and stainless elements vs some kind of alloy. Bradford White has proprietary tank lining they claim is superior. Read the fine print on Lowes/Home Depot extended warranties, they're not what they seem. 

If you can do it flush your heater as often as needed (more if you're on a well or have hard water), and change that anode rod, they'll last a long time. 

Lloyd - Master Plumber  

We typically go middle of the road with all the products we place in our properties, unless we are working on a High End home. One thing I would consider is what the long term plan for the property is. If it's a rental, I would put a good water heater in it, without breaking the bank. If it's a flip, I'm more than likely not going to go with the longest lasting, most expensive model. Hope that's a helpful perspective. If you ever have any questions, shoot me a DM,  I'd be glad to help. 

This suddenly became real for me last night, when a tenant in a 3 family calls to say there's no hot water. I had splurged in 2009 on a 12 year Kenmore 75 gal tank, so this morning I call about the warranty. They say the process is to send a technician today, and get back to me about their verdict in 24 to 48 business hours, so that might mean Tuesday before work is even scheduled.  3 families with 2 infants, without hot water for probably 6 days? I can't do that!!!  This warranty was a waste of money.

We just use the Rheem brand from Home Depot as they are always close by. We change out the anode rod every 5 years or so and you'll double the life of the water heater for about $35. That can add up to a lot of capex! Most you can just wrench out but some we have to use an electric impact. Also when it's time to replace the whole tank we do it on a turnover as it's cheaper and easier than on a holiday weekend when a tenant calls you with no hot water :)

I have been installing on-demand systems & have had no problems so far. Main reason is CO issues & backdrafting of older tanks & complete tank failures when you least expect it.  

Our oldest on-demand is about 7 years & we just sold that home. For electric only applications (with 200amp panels) I prefer the Stiebel Elton Tempra. It's fun installing those 6ga wiring runs but my oldest is 5 years & no issues. I do install a hard water filter system to avoid any issues.

We inherited a 75gallon Bradford White with a 2012 install date, in our 6-plex, & it's just waiting to fail at the most inopportune time. So I have a backup sitting there in the basement from another property we upgraded to on-demand. If I can get an on-demand for a good price it will be the alternate upgrade. 

I just buy the cheapest water heater they have at Lowes when they fail. Usually it is about $200-360. Sometimes I'll buy the tune up kit for $30 and replace the elements and thermostats if I think that's the problem and I do that while there's still water in the tank. I have never bothered with maintenance to a water heater because it's a pretty simple device that will probably wear out either way and it will probably cost more in maintenance than it would to just pop in a new one.

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