preventing damage from a sudden water heater leak

I own a rental unit that has a gas water heater on the second floor of the apartment. The water heaters are about 10 years old and I am wondering if I should get it replaced. I am concerned that it could suddenly repture and cause a terrible mess. A friend’s water heater ruptured without warning and ruined the ceiling below. I don’t want that to happen to me.

Is there some cut-off device that will sense a water leak and automatically stop the water flow? Or is the general rule of thumb just to replace the water heater after so many years?

As a property manager I deal with lots of water heaters. Parts have gotten so expensive for electric and it takes too much time to diagnose problems that anymore I just replace them. The newer electic and gas heaters are much more energy efficient.

Gas heaters are much more problem free it seems and last a long time. I know that I have some over 20 years old and still going strong.

That said, I have only once experienced a leak such as you describe. Most leaks are related to the plumbing to and from the heater or from an unplumbed relief valve which is more common than you would think.

There are inexpensive water alarms that squeal when there is a water leak but they don’t shut off the water. The ones I have used are made by Zircon, the same folks of stud-finder fame.

You can also get inexpensive overflow pans for water heaters and washing machines that you can plumb into a drain, from any good maintenance supply. I use Maintenance USA.