Why is an older water heater an insurance problem?

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Here’s some statistics from the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety, an insurance industry research organization:

  • Most water heater failures occur when the water heater has reached its life expectancy and the tank begins to rust and corrode. 
  • The average age at failure was 10.7 years.
  • More than two-thirds of all water heater failures are due to a slow leak or sudden burst of the tank.
  • Water heater failures cost the insurance company an average of $4,444 per incident, after the deductible is paid.

   Because water heaters corrode from the inside of the tank outward, there is often no external sign of it’s deterioration. The water heater in the picture above is 28 years old. Other than a little dust and some discoloration of the EnergyGuide sticker, it doesn’t look it’s age--and that’s the problem. It is a proverbial “accident waiting to happen.”

   When insurance companies request a 4-point inspection for older homes, as they are doing more often lately, if the water heater is over about 30 years old they will likely request that it be replaced as a requirement for coverage.

   There are several things you can do to extend the life of an older water heater, such as draining the sediment from the bottom of the tank every couple of years and replacing the sacrificial anode as necessary, but the best way to avoid a water heater failure and subsequent water damage is to just replace it.

    To find the age of your water heater, go to How do I determine the age of my water heater? Also, see our blog post What are the most common installation mistakes with water heater replacement?

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Here’s links to a collection of more blog posts about WATER HEATERS:

Are water heaters required to be raised off the floor? 

Can a Temperature and Pressure Relief (TPR or T&P) valve be mounted to discharge horizontally?

Where are gas water heaters not allowed to be installed?  

Is the minimum size water heater inlet pipe 1/2" or 3/4" according to the building code? 

Can you use a light switch for a water heater disconnect? 

How can I tell if a water heater is HUD-approved for mobile/manufactured homes?

Can you wire a 240-volt water heater with 120 volts? 

Is it alright to have a shut-off valve on both the hot and cold water pipes at a water heater?  

What is the minimum clearance to doors and windows for an outdoor tankless gas water heater? 

What is required clearance for access and working space in front of an electric water heater? 

Why is the water heater older than the house? 

Does a water heater need a shut-off valve? 

Why should a tankless water heater have an isolator/service valve kit installed?

When was a gas water heater first required to be elevated 18 inches above a garage floor?  

Can the temperature and pressure relief (TPR) valve discharge pipe for a mobile/manufactured home water heater terminate under the home? 

What is the purpose of a thermostatic mixing valve above a water heater? 

Does a tankless gas water heater still work with no electricity during a power outage?  

•  Why do water heaters have a sacrificial anode? 

What is the difference between a manufactured/mobile home water heater and a regular water heater? 

Does a tankless water heater require a pressure relief valve?

When is a water heater drain pan required?

Why is there water in my water heater drain pan?

What does it mean when a water heater Temperature/Pressure Relief (TPR) discharge pipe is "trapped"? 

Can I leave a gas water heater in place when remodeling a garage into a family room or bedroom? 

Where do I find the water heater in a mobile home?

Does a tankless water heater in an attic require a drain pan? 

Does an electric water heater require a disconnect? 

Is a catch pan and drain piping required for a replacement water heater?

What is the difference between a single element and dual element electric water heater? 

What is an FVIR water heater?

What is a dielectric union?

What's that powdery crust on the pipe connections at the water heater? 

Why is my water heater making strange (rumbling, gurgling, knocking or banging) noises? 

What can I do to make my water heater last longer?

How can I determine the age of a water heater if the serial number is missing or decoding it is impossible? 

How does a hydronic heating system work?

What is the difference between a regular water heater and a direct vent water heater? 

What is the difference between a regular water heater and a power vent water heater?

What is backdrafting at a gas water heater? 

How do I determine if a water heater is gas or electric?

What does it mean when a gas appliance (water heater, furnace, or range) has been "red tagged"?  

• What's the valve with the flip-up handle on the water heater for?

   Visit our WATER HEATERS page for other related blog posts on this subject, or go to the INDEX for a complete listing of all our articles. 

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