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How can I determine the age of a water heater if the serial number is missing or decoding it is impossible?
Tuesday, August 14, 2018
When the serial number is not legible, completely missing, or you can’t figure out how to tease the year of manufacture out of the number-letter sequence, you have one more option that can help you determine approximately how old it is: the year of the ASHRAE or ANSI standard that the water heater complies with. Those acronyms stand for the “American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers” and “American National Standards Institute,” and both set industry standards which are updated every few years.
The water heater label in the photo at the top of the page complies with an ASHRAE standard for 1980. Because the serial number was still intact, we know that it was manufactured in 1985. But, if it was missing, the ASHRAE date would tell you that it could not have been manufactured before 1980. These standards get updated every 4 to 6 years, so the certification provides you with a 6-year range in which it was built: 1980 to 1986.
The water heater in the photo above was manufactured in 1999. But, if you didn’t have a complete data plate to view, the ANSI certification (here abbreviated to ANS) would tell you that it was manufactured sometime between 1996 and 2002.
If the yellow Energy Rating sticker is still in place, there is often a date at the bottom of it, like in the example below.
An experienced home inspector, one that has been looking at water heaters for years, can determine the approximate age based on the color of the tank and the logo design of the manufacturer. Rheem Manufacturing, for example, paints their tanks blue and white; but the shade of blue has changed over the years and their logo design has morphed to suit the times. A medallion like the one shown below on a deep blue tank means you are looking at a water heater that is 40+ years old.
Also, see our blog post What can I do to make my water heater last longer?
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Field Guide for Home Inspectors, a quick reference for finding the age of 154 brands of HVAC systems, water heaters, and electrical panels, plus 210 code standards for site-built and manufactured homes, and the life expectancy rating of 195 home components. Available at amazon.com for $19.95.
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