How to Find the Age of Your Water Heater

How Old is My Water Heater?

“Your hot water tank heater will need replacing every ten years”, and “Your tankless water heating system or unit will need replacing every 25 to 40 years”, are common phrases heard around water heaters.

If you feel as though you’ve lived where you do now for a long time, but have never actually checked your water heater, ever, then you probably should take the time to find out how old it actually is. This process is actually incredibly simple and can be done through many methods. One method is to use traditional science with the help of a university laboratory to determine how old the paint is on your water heater, and another is to use the numbers on the back of your tankless water heating unit or system or your hot water tank.

For this article, though, we’ll stick with the second option – we happen to think that’s easier and more accessible to the wider majority of the population. It’s also a lot simpler, too.

But why would you actually want to check the age of your water heater? Surely this is information you don’t want to know about, as it gives you an idea of when your next big problem will come up? Well, there’s a great many reasons as to why you might want to do this. The most common is actually incredibly reasonable, and can be understood by a great many.

If you’ve lived in the same home since you moved out from your parents, and have never once had to change your water heater, and have actually lived where you do now for a long time with no issues with your water heater, you might be interested in seeing how long it has lasted. If it’s lasted for a long time, you know that the model you have selected is of a high, durable quality and is likely manufactured by a reputable company that puts its customers before its profits. And then, if you ever do experience problems with your water heater as a result of age, you can always just go out and purchase the same one, with the knowledge that the second one you buy will not let you down either, and will last you just as long as the very first one.

Although, now it’s time to move onto how to actually check how old your water heater is, instead of rambling on about why you’d want to. We’re sure you’ve got your own reasons, now get on with it!

How to check the age of your water heater

It’s as simple as deciphering the information on the label.

To see how old your water heater actually is, go upstairs (or downstairs) or wherever your water heater is located, whether it be a tankless water heating system or unit or a hot water tank heating system or unit, and examine it for any labels.

You’re looking specifically for white labels with little health and safety information on them – each label has it’s own purpose, and the red ones or the orange ones or the yellow ones likely only contain information that you don’t really need to know unless you’re trying to service or maintain or clean the thing yourself.

On these labels, you will likely find a whole load of information you don’t care about. It can be difficult to find a year of manufacture, but once you find this you can quite easily find the month (and sometimes even the day!) too.

Provided you haven’t vandalised your water heater on the day of it’s arrival in your home (or the previous owner of your home hasn’t vandalised it) the labels should all be there. All of them are legally required to be there.

The year should be clearly printed, although for certain models decoding the label is more difficult. If there’s no clear year printed on any of the labels, you should always resort to calling your manufacturer and asking about how to decode the labels, as some encode their years through letters and numbers, most likely deliberately to confuse buyers into thinking their product lasts for millennia.

If you still have any doubts, take a photo of the label and then head over to the manufacturer’s website. They all have details of how to check the age.

About the author

Steve Bates

Hi, I'm Steve and I currently reside in Chicago, Illinois. Although for most of the last 20 years I was a partner in a HVAC company down in Austin, Texas.

I understand the frustration involved with dealing with water heater repairs and replacing or upgrading to a new, more efficient model.

My aim is offer some basic advice on fixing home hot water systems. And if a repair isn't possible, then to make the process of selecting a new water heater – be it gas or electric - as simple as possible.

So that you can save money and have a safe and reliable hot water system in your home for many years to come.