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Our 20 yr old water heater periodically gives much less hot water while taking a shower. I realize this is saying there's much less hot water in the tank that's actually as hot as I want it! Would this indicate possibly replacing the heating unit or is the whole thing bad?

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Hello, Your 20 year old water heater is nearing the end of it's useful life. Most water heaters last only 20 years before they start to leak. The reason most likely it has intermittent heat spurts is most likely due to two things, 1. The unit has a lot of rust in the water (you don't normally notice it during a shower) If you were to bleed off the rust by attaching a hose or bucket to the bottom of the heater's water outlet, and /or the over pressure tube located off of the top of the unit that has a copper pipe on it pointing toward the ground, that you would see a lot of rust come out of it. You could do this and get a bit more life out of it and better heat to boot, unless it decides to leak.
2. The water heater has a bad electric heating element (if it's electric that is). Replacing it may solve the problem but most likely the heater still isn't going to last too much longer anyways, so that would be a judgement call on your side.
You would in all likely-hood be better off replacing the entire water heater now while it is in a controlled environment before it leaks at some unfortunate time causing water damage and other damage at the same time when you are not around to control it.
Good Luck! Rich L.

Posted on Jan 02, 2011

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