It is amazing the difference a new water heater makes. We knew ours was old - original to the house - so about 18 yrs old. And that we were slowly getting less hot water and the water we did get wasn't as hot, but you know, it was gradual and so we didn't notice how bad it had gotten until it had gotten REALLY bad. Plus we have extremely hard water, so we figured a portion of our tank was full of sediment build up.
As my mom and I started talking about Christmas presents for this year, she asked if we wanted her to get us a hot water heater, which I kind of agreed to and then thought about and then said sure and then thought about, because we needed one but with a new baby coming there are lots of things we need (like a car seat) that are important too. But then I started paying more attention to how much hot water we really got from our hot water heater. First it was the showers in the morning that rapidly cooled off even though ideally it would be full of hot water since none had been used since the night before. Then it was not having enough hot water to fill the tub for Claire's bath.
So, we decided that a hot water heater was necessary. Mom was researching how to get Home Depot to install it but we weren't in a huge hurry because it was only October. Then last night, I was washing dishes and had to heat water in the microwave to get the water HOT instead of half a sink of lukewarm water. After which I called my mom and asked if we could please have our hot water heater NOW.
The installation company had an opening today (Friday), and now we have hot water. Lots of hot water. Lovely awesome amazing hot water. And actual HOT water...not just lukewarm water.
So the lesson is, hot water heaters are not really meant to last 18 years. And when you notice that you can no longer fill the tub before the water gets cold, it's time to replace that thing because it much such a difference!