Your water heater has a major impact on the quality of your home’s amenities. Modern conveniences ranging from taking hot showers to completing fresh laundry all depend on a functional water heater to produce great results. Given the role that a water heater plays in everyday life, it is only natural for homeowners to want to do everything they can to prolong the life expectancy of this important appliance. A review of the best practices for extending the life of your water heater can help you get the most out of your unit and prevent the type of problems that arise from neglect.
What Is a Heater Heater?
A water heater is a plumbing appliance or apparatus that heats water for human usage. The goal of a water heater is to make hot water readily accessible and to ensure that the hot water retains a constant elevated temperature. Some water heaters also store the water for future use. While there are various types of water heater models on the market, all water heaters have an estimated lifespan.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the average lifespan of a traditional storage water heater is 10 to 15 years. The life expectancy of a tankless water heater is approximately 20 years. Indirect water heaters have an expected lifespan of 10 years, solar water heaters have a life expectancy of 20 years, and heat pumps have an estimated lifespan of 10 to 15 years. No matter how expensive the model, water heaters eventually wear out and need to be replaced. However, there are steps you can take to avoid needing to replace this appliance any sooner than necessary.
Eight Tips for Extending the Life of Your Water Heater
Most homeowners start thinking about replacing their water heaters, regardless of the type or model, once the appliance is around 10 years old. However, there are several recommendations you can follow to extend the life of your water heater. These tips can include technical factors, such as the pressure relief valve, anode rod, gas line or expansion tank. But the tips can also include simple arrangements, such as keeping up with your routine maintenance schedule. Staying informed about the best practices can help keep your unit running at its fullest potential for the longest time possible.
1. Flush the Water Heater
The typical water heater must measure up to the constant demands of everyday household activities. These demands can include supplying hot water to multiple showers, washing machines, dishwashers and even hot tubs, all at once. At the same time, water heaters often deal with the influx of particles and other debris found in mineral-rich water. Gradually, this sediment can accumulate at the bottom of your water heater tank. The layer of sediment separates fresh water from heating elements, and your appliance has to work harder to fulfill the household’s water demands. This extra work can cause the unit to overheat. Eventually, the overheating process can shorten the lifespan of the appliance and result in expensive replacements or repairs. In addition, the extra layer of sediment at the bottom of your tank can expose household water to harmful bacteria or chemicals.
To avoid this occurrence, experts recommend flushing your water heater at least once a year. Homeowners who live in areas known for hard water can flush their water heaters more often. The flushing process typically involves draining the tank, allowing it to refill and then draining it once more to remove dirt and debris. Since the flushing process can involve valves and other unfamiliar components, it is best to have a professional flush and cleanse your tank properly.
2. Test the Pressure-Relief Valve
The purpose of a pressure-relief valve is to provide an outlet in the event that pressure within the water heater gets too high. Whether gas or electric, all water heaters come equipped with this valve. A properly functioning valve automatically opens to relieve your unit of excess heat or pressure. If the valve malfunctions, however, this excess heat and pressure will continue to build up in the unit. In the worst-case scenario, the pressure overload can cause your water heater to rupture or explode.
Valve defects are often the result of sediment or residue buildup that can block the valve’s opening. A professional can help check this valve several times a year to ensure optimal performance. Valves that no longer open as required will need to be replaced. While it may seem easier to ignore valve issues at first, having a professional replace the valve is a better than needing to prematurely replace the water heater altogether (because it ruptured or exploded).
3. Check the Anode Rod
The anode rod is a long metal tube that helps prevent your water heater from rusting. It is a major component that runs down the center of the tank. The anode rod is made of metals that contain a more active voltage and higher electrochemical potential than the metal in your water heater. Metals found in anode rods can include aluminum, magnesium or a zinc alloy. These oxidizing metals attract corrosion so that your tank does not rust or corrode instead. In addition, metals in the anode rod can also attract hard-water minerals, like calcium, thereby preventing such molecules from creating sediment buildup in the tank. For this reason, a functional anode rod can double the lifespan of your water heater. Once the anode rod has fully corroded, you will need to replace it with a fresh metal rod to start the process all over again. A professional can inspect the anode rod and replace it before rust has a chance to start spreading to the rest of the tank.
4. Consider Adding an Expansion Tank
Water expands when heated due to a phenomenon known as thermal pressure. Scientifically, hydrologists measure thermal water pressure in pounds per square inch (PSI). Heating water can raise thermal water pressure to a very high level of 80 PSI. But since the size of your water heater tank remains the same, this increase in pressure also increases the chances that your water heater may crack or burst. Fortunately, an expansion tank can provide a space for this high-pressure backflow. Some municipalities even require new homes to have expansion tanks as a safety precaution. A plumbing professional can install an expansion tank to help prevent leaks or damage to your water heating system.
5. Inspect the Gas Lines
If your water heater is connected to a gas line, you need to have a plumbing professional check for problems, like cracks, rust or leaks in the line. An expert can correct any corrosion or cracks before these issues begin to affect your appliance. Gas line leaks constitute a safety hazard and a professional can replace a damaged gas line before it harms the health of your family.
6. Use a Water Softener
Water quality can also affect the lifespan of your water heater. Hard water contains large quantities of minerals, like calcium and magnesium. When heated, these minerals separate and form sediment deposits at the bottom of your tank. This sediment buildup can shorten your heater’s lifespan. A water softener removes these minerals beforehand and reduces the risk of mineral content buildup in your system.
7. Consider Installing Insulation
Insulating your water heater and pipes can reduce heating loss as your system delivers hot water to various rooms. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, water heater insulation may reduce standby heat losses by 25% to 45%. By making your unit more efficient, this insulation may also help you save around 7% to 16% in water heating costs per year.
8. Schedule a Maintenance Checkup
One of the most important ways to protect the life expectancy of your heater is to keep up with routine maintenance checks and tune-ups. These checkups allow professionals to check for problems, like cracks or leaks, before such issues cause irreversible damage to your system. Professionals also have the right tools and equipment to ensure effectiveness and reduce the likelihood of redundant repairs.
Contact Us Today
With the right maintenance and care, you can ensure peak operation and optimum efficiency for the entirety of your water heater’s lifespan. High 5 Plumbing provides water heater maintenance for households in Denver and surrounding areas. We offer expert inspection, diagnosis and repair for any water heater issues. When necessary, our technicians can replace your old water heater or answer any questions about upgrading to a tankless water heater. Contact High 5 Plumbing today to get professional help for your home.