Author Topic: Pre-emptively replace aging water heater?  (Read 9814 times)

Freedom2016

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Pre-emptively replace aging water heater?
« on: October 14, 2014, 01:25:04 PM »
What's the better choice:

Pre-emptively replace our aging water heater (our downstairs condo neighbor with exact same WH as us had it die on them 6 months ago), or wait til it dies? I'm under the impression that WH's work until they suddenly don't work - in other words, we might not get any advanced notice that it's about to break down.

Factors that might make a difference:

--We are about to have baby #2 and it seems like it could be a big hassle to be suddenly without hot water, esp if it goes on a weekend where labor costs would presumably be higher to get it fixed right away. (Or is it being a complainypants to not want to be without hot water with 2 small kids in the house?) (with a newborn I can't say I would be psyched to have to deal with something like this...)
--We *might* be selling our condo in the spring. Does that argue for crossing our fingers that the current one lasts that long - so we sell and it becomes the buyer's problem? Or is it a selling point that there's a brand new WH? On the other hand, we might decide to stay put for one more year.

It looks like WH replacement costs (parts and labor) might be $700-850 or so, though we need to research costs more closely. We have the cash. Sorry I don't have specific WH model info right now - we're 2000 miles away from our condo right now.

CowboyAndIndian

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Re: Pre-emptively replace aging water heater?
« Reply #1 on: October 14, 2014, 01:28:20 PM »
If you were staying there, I would say go ahead and replace, but since you might sell, I would not change it.

Water heater die mostly when they develop leaks. Not when elements go.

So, I would put a water leak detector (5 or 10$ at home depot) and check it every week or so.



sirdoug007

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Re: Pre-emptively replace aging water heater?
« Reply #2 on: October 14, 2014, 01:29:57 PM »
Lowes has some tips on when to replace: http://www.lowes.com/cd_Install+a+Water+Heater_495279775_

I'd say, if it ain't broke, don't fix it.  Especially if you may be selling the condo soon.

Replacing just because a neighbors unit crapped out isn't a good reason.

hybrid

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Re: Pre-emptively replace aging water heater?
« Reply #3 on: October 14, 2014, 01:48:59 PM »
How old is the water heater? The thing about water heaters, they tend not to break at the most convenient of times (because there is no such thing). If this water heater is in fact pretty darn old and nearing EOL, go ahead and replace I say. A savvy buyer is going to ding you for a water heater they will have to go through the hassle to replace anyway. You won't get dollar for dollar replacement value, but you won't get dinged on a home inspection and like you said, you only might be moving.

If the water heater isn't really all that old, then let it ride and get the sensor like a previous poster mentioned.

skunkfunk

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Re: Pre-emptively replace aging water heater?
« Reply #4 on: October 14, 2014, 01:50:00 PM »
If you're going tankless, pull the trigger. Otherwise, fuck it.

Freedom2016

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Re: Pre-emptively replace aging water heater?
« Reply #5 on: October 14, 2014, 01:59:56 PM »
The water heater was installed new in 2005 - so, approaching 10 yrs old now. Typical life of WH seems to be 8-12 years. We're not going to convert to tankless, it would be a straight-up replacement of a standard 40 or 50 gallon tank.

Thanks for the food for thought. Am sharing this thread w/ DH to help us decide. We have a plumber friend coming to the condo to fix something else and he's going to inspect the WH to let us know if he sees anything concerning. We'll see what he says.

Spork

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Re: Pre-emptively replace aging water heater?
« Reply #6 on: October 14, 2014, 02:03:58 PM »
My question would be: is your current water heater up to the current code?  This is significant because they've updated the code in the past 15-20 (?) years...   Part of the new code requires a catch pan that will drain your water heater somewhere safe (or if not feasible, it will minimally shut the supply line off with a leak detector).

If you have a catch pan and plumbing that takes it outside... It is a coin toss as to whether you want to replace it.

If you don't... then go ahead and bite the bullet.  When it fails, it will flood.  Depending on your home setup, this may or may not be an issue.  But my sister was flooded by her water heater about a year ago and my dad was flooded just this past weekend.  Both were caught very quickly... but they both destroyed the flooring.  Had they gone longer, they would have done much more damage.

Expect to pay a little more if you are not up to code.  I've now known 3 people that got recent code elevating replacements.  They were all in the $1500-$2000 range.    I did a code upgrade replacement around 2005 and I think it was $800 then (with no permit cost).

FrugalSpendthrift

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Re: Pre-emptively replace aging water heater?
« Reply #7 on: October 14, 2014, 02:10:03 PM »
--We are about to have baby #2 and it seems like it could be a big hassle to be suddenly without hot water, esp if it goes on a weekend where labor costs would presumably be higher to get it fixed right away. (Or is it being a complainypants to not want to be without hot water with 2 small kids in the house?) (with a newborn I can't say I would be psyched to have to deal with something like this...)
Losing your hot water heater doesn't have to be a crisis.  You could still heat up water on the stove or in the microwave oven...   Don't panic, just wash your hands with cold water.

hybrid

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Re: Pre-emptively replace aging water heater?
« Reply #8 on: October 14, 2014, 02:10:32 PM »
My question would be: is your current water heater up to the current code?  This is significant because they've updated the code in the past 15-20 (?) years...   Part of the new code requires a catch pan that will drain your water heater somewhere safe (or if not feasible, it will minimally shut the supply line off with a leak detector).

If you have a catch pan and plumbing that takes it outside... It is a coin toss as to whether you want to replace it.

If you don't... then go ahead and bite the bullet.  When it fails, it will flood.  Depending on your home setup, this may or may not be an issue.  But my sister was flooded by her water heater about a year ago and my dad was flooded just this past weekend.  Both were caught very quickly... but they both destroyed the flooring.  Had they gone longer, they would have done much more damage.

Expect to pay a little more if you are not up to code.  I've now known 3 people that got recent code elevating replacements.  They were all in the $1500-$2000 range.    I did a code upgrade replacement around 2005 and I think it was $800 then (with no permit cost).

Agreed on all counts. Our water heater went last year and it was located under the house. I didn't catch it until the water bill showed up. We were fortunate the leak was slow enough that all of the water percolated through the soil, it could have been much worse.

Freedom2016

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Re: Pre-emptively replace aging water heater?
« Reply #9 on: October 14, 2014, 02:19:21 PM »
I *believe* it's up to code... our condo is in a 3-unit Victorian house that was gut rehabbed in 2005, so I expect that the developers had to bring everything up to code. Our inspector didn't flag it as an issue when we bought in 2010...

The WH's for all 3 units are in the basement right next to each other, and I do know there is a drainage area and sump pump nearby.



Spork

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Re: Pre-emptively replace aging water heater?
« Reply #10 on: October 14, 2014, 02:29:18 PM »

If a flood won't hurt anything...   I wouldn't be overly worried.

If it is electric... you can also up your chances by making sure the sacrificial rod is in good shape.

If it has a decent hose bib (by decent, I mean "not made of plastic") ... you can also up your chances of survival by draining the tank and getting the sediment out of it.  I have had terrible luck with cheap plastic hose bibs on old water heaters... so ... if you have a cheap hose bib, I'm not sure you want to try that.

MayDay

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Re: Pre-emptively replace aging water heater?
« Reply #11 on: October 14, 2014, 07:54:52 PM »
Our house was built in 2003 and it never occurred to me to pre-emptively replace the hot water heaters.  That said, we have an unfinished basement, and the heater is near a drain, so I'm not too concerned. 

Horror story for you:  our old house was on the market, and had a showing.  They happened to notice that there was a small leak with the water heater.  The house had a fully finished basement. 

We called the gas company (gas hot water heater) and said we were told the water heater was leaking, what should we do?  They said "if it COULD BE a gas leak WINK WINK NOD NOD we will send someone out for free to check it".  So they send someone out, yes it's leaking slowly, no harm done yet.  They shut off the water, we called a lumber and got  it replaced with no damage.  It could have been a huge major disaster, but thankfully was caut just in time.  The heater was 18 years old.  If I ever have one in a finished basement again, I will certainly be more cautious. 

Dan_at_Home

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Re: Pre-emptively replace aging water heater?
« Reply #12 on: October 14, 2014, 10:12:39 PM »
In my house, I noticed last year that our hot water heater was about to go, also I noticed that there was no drain in the room and essentially no where for the water to go, thus I did the per-emptive replacement.  The old water heater was crap anyway and not as energy efficient as the new ones.

My suggestion is to go ahead and replace it.  This makes the process much less stressful and gives you some time to shop around for the type you want to replace it with.  Also there is a learning curve in learning how to install yourself, thus this gives you some type to watch some videos online and come up with a plan.  From my experience I highly recommend using PEX piping and stay away from copper and sweating the joints as much as possible.
 

megaschnauzer

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Re: Pre-emptively replace aging water heater?
« Reply #13 on: October 15, 2014, 06:37:49 AM »
if it's not leaking, why bother replacing it? i think the heating element can be replaced if that's what goes out. i think the heating element goes out due to sediment building up in the bottom of the tank. you should be able to flush it out with the faucet at the bottom of the tank. there's also a release valve that needs to be checked.

Elderwood17

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Re: Pre-emptively replace aging water heater?
« Reply #14 on: October 15, 2014, 06:55:00 AM »
I generally don't preemptive lay replace anything.  I have had many things that were supposedly on their last legs keep functioning for a long time.  You have a drain area so it is not as risky as if you didn't.  In some cases of very old appliances the future energy savings make it worthwhile but if you think you might sell I would hold on to it as long as it is functional.

horsepoor

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Re: Pre-emptively replace aging water heater?
« Reply #15 on: October 15, 2014, 07:18:23 AM »
Our house was built in 2003 and it never occurred to me to pre-emptively replace the hot water heaters.  That said, we have an unfinished basement, and the heater is near a drain, so I'm not too concerned. 

Horror story for you:  our old house was on the market, and had a showing.  They happened to notice that there was a small leak with the water heater.  The house had a fully finished basement. 

We called the gas company (gas hot water heater) and said we were told the water heater was leaking, what should we do?  They said "if it COULD BE a gas leak WINK WINK NOD NOD we will send someone out for free to check it".  So they send someone out, yes it's leaking slowly, no harm done yet.  They shut off the water, we called a lumber and got  it replaced with no damage.  It could have been a huge major disaster, but thankfully was caut just in time.  The heater was 18 years old.  If I ever have one in a finished basement again, I will certainly be more cautious.

Ha, in my old house, the water heater started leaking the DAY after we opened escrow to sell it.  So buyer got a bonus brand new water heater.  The old water heater had a date on it:  1964 (this was 2006).  I'm sure "they don't make'em like that anymore" but your water heater could last many more years.  I think the one in the house we just sold is 12-15 years old and it's just fine (a plumber just looked at it and tested the pressure release valve during the inspection process).

justajane

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Re: Pre-emptively replace aging water heater?
« Reply #16 on: October 15, 2014, 07:55:40 AM »
The water heater was installed new in 2005 - so, approaching 10 yrs old now. Typical life of WH seems to be 8-12 years. We're not going to convert to tankless, it would be a straight-up replacement of a standard 40 or 50 gallon tank.

Thanks for the food for thought. Am sharing this thread w/ DH to help us decide. We have a plumber friend coming to the condo to fix something else and he's going to inspect the WH to let us know if he sees anything concerning. We'll see what he says.

We had a plumber in our house last year, and I expressed concerns about our 15 year old water heater, and he said not to replace it - that sometimes they can last at least 20 years. I'm wondering where you heard that their typical life is as low as 8 years.

GuitarStv

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Re: Pre-emptively replace aging water heater?
« Reply #17 on: October 15, 2014, 07:57:49 AM »
Don't replace it until you need to.  Our water heater was installed when the house was built in 1989.  We've been waiting for it to die for three and a half years since we moved in.  It keeps on chugging away like a champ.

Bob W

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Re: Pre-emptively replace aging water heater?
« Reply #18 on: October 15, 2014, 08:50:37 AM »
Replace or not replace?  There is always the 3rd way and that is to maintain it.

Please google hot water heater maintenance.     There is a substantial list of things to do to maintain a water heater.  In fact, everyone reading here should google and apply these methods.

They will not only increase the life of your water heater,  they will also increase the efficiency by a large percentage.   

By the way,  I would also turn off the water heater if you are away from the property for more than 3 days.  Simply flip the breaker switch (or gas lead) and turn the main water valve off.   You should always turn your water off if gone for more than 48 hours. 

Other hot water tips include setting the temp to the lowest setting,  covering it with many layers of old blankets, (careful with gas) using hot water only for showers.   

So the correct answer is ---


Do not replace --- maintain  and
Turn off unit when you are away.   
Turn it to the lowest setting.
Cover it.

When and if it goes out, you might be out of hot water for a day or so.  No big deal as you just convert to boiled water sponge bathes or go for the short cold shower.   

You will want to install the new heater yourself of course.  (or have a handy neighbor do it)

You can buy a 40 gallon unit at Home Depot (electric) for under $250.  If you want to be preemptive,  simply buy the unit and set it ready to go in the basement.   That way when the unit goes (if ever) you can spend 2 hours and be up to speed.  If the unit doesn't go,  you can craigs list it or include it in the home sale. 

workathomedad

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Re: Pre-emptively replace aging water heater?
« Reply #19 on: October 15, 2014, 09:01:26 AM »
Probably a good idea...

~1 month ago my 20 year old water heater finally failed. It did so by dumping all the water into the basement, which had hardwood flooring installed. $10,000 in costs later...

eyePod

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Re: Pre-emptively replace aging water heater?
« Reply #20 on: October 15, 2014, 09:05:28 AM »
LOL 2005.

Our new to us townhome has original water heater, furnace, and AC unit. It was built in 1989. There have been some regular repairs (blower just got fixed before we moved in on the furnace). We have a 1 year home warranty that the sellers paid for. We are only using that in case of failure. We are currently budgeted for a replacement water heater and halfway for the furnace. AC will be the next in line.

We really want an overhaul all three systems, which won't be cheap. The ductwork isn't good and the I'm sure the plumbing is in a similar state. Are you close to any friends/neighbors who can help you out if it goes? That should help you a bridge the gap until a new one is in place!

GizmoTX

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Re: Pre-emptively replace aging water heater?
« Reply #21 on: October 15, 2014, 09:35:08 AM »
The inconvenience of cold water is nothing compared to the damage & cost of a flood. Drain pans & sensors are a good idea, but only if you are there when it happens. They weren't code when it happened to us, & we were away on vacation. We had our current house built & put the water heater in the garage with a sensor & a drain. (We also had a drain installed under our washing machine.)

Bob W

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Re: Pre-emptively replace aging water heater?
« Reply #22 on: October 15, 2014, 09:45:16 AM »
The most common cause of household flooding is not the water heater.   It is the flexible plumbing tubes that connect to your toilets and washing machines.   

I had a friend who was on vacation and his tube burst.  It literally filled his entire basement and caused 100K in damage to his home. (mold)

That is why it is a good idea to turn off the water if you're not at home for 2 days.   

I think the recommendation for replacing the washing machine hose is every 3 years.   Not sure on the toilets.   Mine are newer (4 years).   I think I might just put that on my list this month. 

Amanda

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Re: Pre-emptively replace aging water heater?
« Reply #23 on: October 15, 2014, 09:54:56 AM »
Our house was built in 2003 and it never occurred to me to pre-emptively replace the hot water heaters.  That said, we have an unfinished basement, and the heater is near a drain, so I'm not too concerned. 

Horror story for you:  our old house was on the market, and had a showing.  They happened to notice that there was a small leak with the water heater.  The house had a fully finished basement. 

We called the gas company (gas hot water heater) and said we were told the water heater was leaking, what should we do?  They said "if it COULD BE a gas leak WINK WINK NOD NOD we will send someone out for free to check it".  So they send someone out, yes it's leaking slowly, no harm done yet.  They shut off the water, we called a lumber and got  it replaced with no damage.  It could have been a huge major disaster, but thankfully was caut just in time.  The heater was 18 years old.  If I ever have one in a finished basement again, I will certainly be more cautious.

Ha, in my old house, the water heater started leaking the DAY after we opened escrow to sell it.  So buyer got a bonus brand new water heater.  The old water heater had a date on it:  1964 (this was 2006).  I'm sure "they don't make'em like that anymore" but your water heater could last many more years.  I think the one in the house we just sold is 12-15 years old and it's just fine (a plumber just looked at it and tested the pressure release valve during the inspection process).

+1 We had our hot water heater fail two years ago. It just stopped heating the water. Did a DIY replacement and found the date on the old one was 1960! We'd only had the house for 7 years but that hot water heater was a trooper.

BlueMR2

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Re: Pre-emptively replace aging water heater?
« Reply #24 on: October 15, 2014, 10:12:31 AM »
I *believe* it's up to code... our condo is in a 3-unit Victorian house that was gut rehabbed in 2005, so I expect that the developers had to bring everything up to code. Our inspector didn't flag it as an issue when we bought in 2010...

Our inspector flagged one code violation on our WH, but totally missed the second one.  :-)  He noticed that the discharge pipe was too short, but completely missed the fact that the height above floor was insufficient.

CowboyAndIndian

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Re: Pre-emptively replace aging water heater?
« Reply #25 on: October 15, 2014, 10:16:20 AM »
The most common cause of household flooding is not the water heater.   It is the flexible plumbing tubes that connect to your toilets and washing machines.    .

+1

Also, replace the pastic plumbing hoses with the steel braided ones. Those do not burst.

Bob W

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Re: Pre-emptively replace aging water heater?
« Reply #26 on: October 15, 2014, 10:31:20 AM »
The most common cause of household flooding is not the water heater.   It is the flexible plumbing tubes that connect to your toilets and washing machines.    .

+1

Also, replace the pastic plumbing hoses with the steel braided ones. Those do not burst.

Good point!  I failed to mention that. 

Exflyboy

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Re: Pre-emptively replace aging water heater?
« Reply #27 on: October 15, 2014, 10:46:07 AM »
The most common cause of household flooding is not the water heater.   It is the flexible plumbing tubes that connect to your toilets and washing machines.    .

+1

Also, replace the pastic plumbing hoses with the steel braided ones. Those do not burst.

Hold on there Cowboy.. there are a number of SS braided hoses for washing machines are are absolute sh*te!.. In particular the ones with the check valves.. I think they are called "floodsafe".. They basically don't work and are basically a cheap vynil hose covered in SS braid.

A better option is a set of high quality hoses called "floodcheck".. Just a much better multi layer synthetic rubber built hose. They are about $40 a pair mail order and are cheap insurance.

The reason its always (almost) the washing machine hose that bursts is because its a half inch hose.. whereas the toilet and faucet hoses are only 1/4 to 3/8th".. This larger diameter means the force on the walls of the pipe is much higher for the same pressure.

This is why your not supposed to use a 1/2" hose for the dishwasher (I still need to swap mine out for the proper 3/8ths hose).

The flex hoses for toilets and faucets are much lower risk but its probably not a bad ideal to replace them every decade or so.

As to the water heater, these are about the easiest thing to replace on a DIY basis with a couple of wrenches and takes about half an hour.. Well worth learning how.

Frank


Freedom2016

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Re: Pre-emptively replace aging water heater?
« Reply #28 on: October 15, 2014, 10:48:35 AM »
Really great stuff, everyone. Thanks!

Google told me WH expected life is 8-12 years LOL. Hoping it's much longer. I know my parents didn't have to replace theirs til it was 20+ years old... but you know the saying, "they don't make 'em like they used to" so it wouldn't surprise me if newer models are built with "planned obsolescence" lifespans that are much shorter than they used to be.

The shared basement is very rudimentary - no wood floors to ruin, plus sump pump in place. So I'm not terribly worried about flooding.

DH has a very close friend who is a master plumber so we would probably have him do the work at $0 (or very low) labor cost. We can hang over his shoulder to see how he does it (to learn for future...), but neither of us is DIY-savvy to feel confident doing the work solo right out of the gate.

Spork

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Re: Pre-emptively replace aging water heater?
« Reply #29 on: October 15, 2014, 11:00:22 AM »

How long it lasts also depends on your water chemistry.  There may be some amount of "they don't make them like they used to"... but there are just some areas of the country where the water has more minerals in it and is more reactive.  These folks will do really well to replace their anode rod often.

CowboyAndIndian

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Re: Pre-emptively replace aging water heater?
« Reply #30 on: October 15, 2014, 11:42:13 AM »
Hold on there Cowboy.. there are a number of SS braided hoses for washing machines are are absolute sh*te!.. In particular the ones with the check valves.. I think they are called "floodsafe".. They basically don't work and are basically a cheap vynil hose covered in SS braid.

A better option is a set of high quality hoses called "floodcheck".. Just a much better multi layer synthetic rubber built hose. They are about $40 a pair mail order and are cheap insurance.

I learn something on this forum every day. Thanks ExFlyBoy.

justajane

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Re: Pre-emptively replace aging water heater?
« Reply #31 on: October 15, 2014, 12:05:23 PM »
Does anyone else drain their water heater regularly or try to get the sediment build up out of the bottom? When we first moved in we were having trouble getting hot water, so I got a bunch of stuff out. Then it turned out to be the dip tube.

I have never flushed it again, mainly because I read that one of the most common problems is leaks and that excessive use of the drain valve can cause this.

What maintenance, if any, do you all do on your water heaters?

Spork

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Re: Pre-emptively replace aging water heater?
« Reply #32 on: October 15, 2014, 12:26:36 PM »
Does anyone else drain their water heater regularly or try to get the sediment build up out of the bottom? When we first moved in we were having trouble getting hot water, so I got a bunch of stuff out. Then it turned out to be the dip tube.

I have never flushed it again, mainly because I read that one of the most common problems is leaks and that excessive use of the drain valve can cause this.

What maintenance, if any, do you all do on your water heaters?

When I had a tank model, I tried to flush it once a year (though it was probably longer than that.)  But... beware of cheap plastic hose bibs.  They are just as likely to fail as work.

I have a tankless now...  About once a year I do an hour long flush using a submersible pump and about 4 gallons of vinegar.