The majority of water heaters are designed to last between ten to fifteen years. However, nearly three quarters of water heaters have failed by the thirteenth year, according to the California Energy Commission. These failures are typically unexpected, because water heaters wear from the inside out, and often result in insurance claims due to water damage. Fortunately, there are ways to help extend the life of your water heater and keep your home safe from water heater related issues.
Sacrificial Anode Rods
Conventional water heaters are glass-lined and use a sacrificial anode rod to “slow” the deterioration process down. This rod is made of magnesium or aluminum that’s formed around a steel core wire and is screwed into the top of the tank. When two metals are physically connected in water, one will corrode away to protect the other. When the water heater tank is filled with water, an electrochemical process begins whereby sacrificial anodes are consumed to protect a small amount of exposed steel. Replacing an anode rod before it fails can slow down corrosion inside the tank and extend the life of the water heater.
The Issue is Sedimentary
Another issue for conventional water heaters is sediment build-up. Heating up water can cause minerals, such as calcium carbonate, to precipitate out. Buildup of this sediment slows heat transfer and overheats the bottom of the tank. In the case of an electric water heater, sediment can bury the lower element, causing it to burn out. In order to avoid this issue and extend the life of the appliance, water heaters should be drained twice a year to help clear the sediment from the system.
Check Your Pressure Release
Water heaters need their temperature-pressure-release valve checked on occasion. To test the valve, shut off the power and cold water supply, place a bucket under the pipe connected to the release valve and lift the valve’s tab to let some water out, then let it go. If water keeps flowing once the valve is released, a new valve will need to be installed.
While all of these tasks can be performed by the homeowner, yearly professional maintenance is also recommended to ensure the integrity of the tank and prevent unplanned problems. Should your water heater begin making noise, leaking or stop producing hot water, it may be time to think about replacement...and calling a pro.