Hot Water Heater

Find the date in serial numbers

As a home inspector, you are constantly on display for your clients while you are performing a home inspection. So while your clients are looking to you as their expert, there is no more embarrassing feeling than being unable to tell them the accurate age of the hot water heater. You need to be able to interpret the date in the serial number as part of your service.

Most water heater manufacturers code the date of manufacture of their appliance in the serial number. You should be familiar with how to extract the date from the serial number.

Some manufacturers such as Rheem use the first 4 numerical digits of the serial number to code the date. So if the water heater has a serial number that starts with 1209, the water heater would have been manufactured in December of 2009. This is often logical and easy to understand.

Bradford White’s dating system

Once you get your hands around this trick, here comes Bradford White to throw you a curve ball. Bradford White employs their own letter code system in the serial number where the first letter is the year and the 2nd letter is the month. An example of a Bradford White serial number of BH6511396 would be:  B=2005 & H=August

The crazy thing is: this letter system repeats every 20 years! I find this so confounding that I have to keep a little cheat sheet on my computer so I can look up the age on-site.

Keep these PDF’s ready on your field computer so next time you are confronted with a hot water heater you can be sure to give your client an accurate date of manufacture.

I hope this inspection tip is helpful!


Dylan Chalk is the author of The Confident House Hunter – a book to teach home buyers how to look at and understand houses: Cedar Fort Press He is also the founder of ScribeWare inspection report software offering innovative and simple Report-writing solutions – and he is the owner of Seattle-based Orca Inspection Services LLC,

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