About a week before we left on vacation, I was down in the basement digging out some hiking gear when I noticed our water heater had a slow leak coming out of it. Of course it had a leak a week before our vacation. I turned down the heat to reduce the metal expansion and called my plumber to see what it would take to get a new water heater. He gave me a price but couldn't get to it that week. I was gone the following week. He was gone the week after that. Of course that was the way it would happen.
I knew when we first bought the place that this day would happen because the water heater is 27 years old. In our neck of the wood where the water if fairly hard, getting 27 years out of a water heater is unheard. On average I would say 10 years is more normal. I also knew from taking a shower, that the 40 gallon capacity was severely diminished due to sediment buildup. You have to be quick with a shower if you want hot water which was no problem for me but with three sometimes four women in the house, it was a problem... for them. I looked at it as more of a water conservation program myself.
Needless to say, I turned the water supply off before leaving on vacation and after a week of it being cold, I monitored it when we got back and I turned the heat back on to it. Nothing like a ruptured hot water heater flooding the basement to put a damper on your post vacation high. However the water heater held together long enough for the plumber to finally come and replace it. I would have liked an on demand heater but it really doesn't make financial sense with our hard water. (They get about 15 year life expediencies here but cost five times as much.) The plumber initially tried to sell me on a forced air model which is supposed to be safer in tighter houses but also requires you to go without hot water in a power outage, something we get fairly often in the winter months and also requires yet another vent pipe to be routed through the side of the house. Since we like our hot water even in a power outage and our old vent through the roof works just fine, we went conventional although I did up the capacity to 50 gallons.
Its amazing at how efficient a tank empty of sediment is compared to one full of sediment. When we emptied out the old tank to remove it, we only drained about 10 gallons of water out of it which meant that it had 30 gallons of sediment. It was a heavy son of a gun to truck out of the basement. The old one took half a day to heat up and at the hottest setting, didn't quite get the water to scalding skin temperatures. The new one took about an hour and a half and at the lowest setting caused me to pull my hand out of the hot water very quickly. The drawback to all this is with three sometimes four women in the house and two daughters who think they are teenagers and will sooner than I like be teenagers, I'm sure my water bill is going to be going up a tick or two.