How to age a Bradford White water heater

How to age a Bradford White Water Heater?

How to age a Bradford White Water Heater

Determining the age of your Bradford-White water heater can be tricky if you don’t have the associated table to decode your serial number.   For unknown reasons, some manufacturers refuse to print a calendar date on the label to tell you, the homeowner, when a water heater was manufactured.

Obviously, the manufactured date and installation date will never be the same on any water heater, but they are typically close. Unless you have an obscure unit that has sat in a warehouse for an extended period of time, it’s rare to see a date of manufacturing not be within a few months of the installation date of a water heater.

While Bradford-White does not print a manufacturing date on the label, they do supply us with their chart so you can easily cross-reference the age of your water heater.

To check the age of your water heater you will need to locate the serial number on the label. The first two letters of the serial number are all you need to focus on.

The first letter of the serial number corresponds to the year that the water heater was manufactured.

The second letter of the serial number corresponds to the month that the water heater was manufactured. I can’t think of a scenario that you would need to know the month your water heater was produced, but that information is available should you need it.

Below is the decoding chart that Bradford White has posted to their website.  To check the age of your water heater, simply find the serial number and cross-reference the first letter to the table below. This table should be good until 2023, at which time I assume they will start over with the letter A for 2024. I guess we’ll have to wait and see what happens with that.

Pro Tip: Sometimes the label is damaged and you can’t read the serial number. If you find yourself in a situation where you can’t get the serial number, look for the ANSI date on the label. The production year will not likely be the same as the ANSI date because production years are typically a few years later than the ANSI dates. It won’t be exact, but it should get you close.

Bradford White Water Heater Age Chart (Year)

A = 1984 or 2004L = 1994 or 2014
B = 1985 or 2005M = 1995 or 2015
C = 1986 or 2006N = 1996 or 2016
D = 1987 or 2007P = 1997 or 2017
E = 1988 or 2008S = 1998 or 2018
F = 1989 or 2009T = 1999 or 2019
G = 1990 or 2010W = 2000 or 2020
H = 1991 or 2011X = 2001 or 2021
J = 1992 or 2012Y = 2002 or 2022
K = 1993 or 2013Z = 2003 or 2023
The first letter of your serial number is the year of production.

Bradford White Water Heater Age Chart (Month)

The second letter of your serial number is the month of production.

Bradford White Water Heater Age
If you use the chart above for this label you’ll see this particular water heater was part of the July 2020 production run.

When Should You Replace Your Water Heater?

Most water heaters have a general life expectancy of about 10 years. Anytime I see a water heater during a home inspection that is around this age I always make sure my client understands that many water heaters have failed and flooded homes.

Any water heater that is close to the 10 year mark should be considered a unit that will need to be replaced at any time.  While it’s no fun to buy water heaters, it’s even less fun to come home to a flooded basement because you waited too long to change out your water heater.

It’s critical to understand that regardless of how big your water heater’s tank is, the system is pressurized by the incoming water line. If a hole were to burst in the side of your water heater, you would not only receive the 40 or 50 gallons the tank is holding. If you are not home to shut the water off, it keeps coming.

A catastrophic water heater failure can flood your house with thousands and thousands of gallons of water if you are not home to catch the problem.

For this reason alone I recommend the replacement of any water heater that is older than 10 years. While you could certainly argue that many water heaters last much longer than 10 years, you greatly increase the risk of flooding and water damage the longer you leave an old water heater in place. 

One last thing: It’s important to note that water heaters should be drained once a year to help remove the sediment at the bottom of the tank. I suspect this gets done about as much as people clean their dryer vents… as in, not at all. Even though they should.

I’ve owned two houses and three water heaters for a total of 23 years–and I’ve never drained one, except to replace it. But you really should follow your water heaters manufacturer’s directions on care and maintenance. Failure to do so could void your warranty.

Water Heater FAQ’s

Most water heaters last about 10 years with routine maintenance.  While it is certainly true that many water heaters can last 15 and even 20 years, that is not the norm.

Any water heater that is beyond the 10-year mark should be considered at the end of its normal life and a replacement should be installed. Waiting to replace your water heater until it fails is a recipe for disaster.

There is actually not a huge difference between brands.

While some models have different options such as Wi-Fi controls, only a handful of manufacturers in the United States build water heaters. This small group produces most of the water heaters installed today.

Tankless water heaters have a general life expectancy of about 20 years with normal maintenance. While they last about twice as long as their tank counterparts, they can cost up to two to three times what a normal tank-style water heater does.

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  1. Our parents’ water heater has been around for a long time and I often wonder how old it is. Thank you for writing this, the information in your article is very helpful for me, I will check its series and maybe know the age of this device.

      1. It has been in use for 10 years now and we are planning to replace it. Thanks for the information you have shared.

  2. I put a new 40 gallon Bradford White water heater in my house when I moved in my place back in 95. That’s 28 years & it’s still going strong. That was with a family of five living in the house too. I’m sticking with a Bradford White when I replace this battleship when it finally retires. Love that great WI well water.

    1. I do see really old units like that from time to time. Most folks only get 12-15 years out of a water heater, so 28 is awesome!

  3. My Bradford White water heater has a serial number beginning with SC. The chart for the S (year of manufacture) says 1998 or 2018. How do I know which date is correct?

    1. One will look new, and the other will look 25 years old. Also, look for the ANSI date on the label. That will be a few years before the manufacture date. That should clue you into the age of the unit.