Our water heaters are often overlooked and typically go unnoticed. They are not something that we spend much time learning about or understanding how to maintain them as we do with other more common home repairs. However, the hot water heater system is just as important and needs regular maintenance if you want to get the most years out of it. Even the best water heater systems can fail early in life if not properly taken care of. The water heater lifespan depends on how much time and effort are put into it. But maintaining a water heater is not the easiest task.
When it comes to providing the best maintenance routine for your system, you’ll need to call in the professionals. However, there are several things that you can do at home in between regular professional maintenance services that will help keep it in tip-top shape. For the best ways to maintain your water heater lifespan, read below!
Average Water Heater Lifespan
Before we get started, let’s discuss the average lifespan of a water heater. Gas water heaters typically last between 8 and 12 years with proper maintenance. Electric water heaters last about 10 to 15 years when they are properly maintained.
It is true that today’s more modern models of water heaters do last longer than the past models, but the right kind of maintenance is still required to get the full amount of years out of it.
Signs That Your Water Heater Needs to Be Replaced
There are several signs that point to the water heater needing to be replaced. The following are some signs that you should look for when doing a regular maintenance check on your water heater system.
1. Cold Water
If your water is only coming out cold and your water heater is turned on, then this is a sure sign that something is not working as it should be. The purpose of having a water heater is to enjoy hot water when needed. If you’re unable to get hot water out of your pipes, then it’s time to call in the professionals.
As time goes on, sediment builds up inside the water heater tank. As the water heater heats this up time after time, it becomes hard and starts to move around in the tank. This causes a rumbling noise. If you hear a rumbling noise coming from your water heater, then you need to correct the problem quickly as it can lead to more serious damage.
3. Water Moisture
If there is any sign of water or moisture around the water heater, this may be a sign of some type of leak. Be sure to check the entire system for any leaks.
4. Rusty Water
If the water coming from your water heater appears rusted or tinted, that may mean one of two things: your tank is rusting on the inside, or your pipes are rusted. This could be hard to tell the difference, so it’s important that you call in the professionals.
If your water heater is reaching the age of 10 years or older, then it’s time to consider replacing it. You’ll want to replace it sooner before later as an old water heater can cause serious problems or damage.
Maintenance Tips That Only Need to be Done Once
There are plenty of easy and fairly inexpensive ways to increase the lifespan of your water heater.
Some of these things you only need to do once, and you’re done! If you take the time to factor in these 5 water heater maintenance tips when installing, upgrading, or maintaining your system, then your water heater will be in good shape for quite some time.
1. Give it Space
To save yourself money down the road and loads of stress, be sure to give your water heater plenty of space. When deciding on an area to have one installed in, you’ll want to ensure that there is plenty of free space around the system.
It should not feel crowded.
This gives you optimal space for completing routine maintenance checks of the system without difficulty.
And giving the system this much-needed air to breathe increases airflow and reduces the risk of fires. Once you find the perfect spot for it, keep any cleaning products or tools such as vacuums, brooms, mops, and others away from the area.
2. Installing Insulation
Insulation should be installed around the pipes and the heater itself.
Purchase pipe insulation that matches the water heater’s pipes in length and diameter. Consider using a foam self-sticking insulation that is 3/8 of an inch thick.
Use the insulation to cover both the hot water and cold water pipes. Cover the pipes back as much as you can. During the summertime, this keeps the pipes from sweating or forming condensation.
If the pipes are 6 inches or closer to the flue, then you should use a 1-inch thick unfaced fiberglass pipe wrap and cover it with this.
3. Setting the Temperature
Setting the temperature is an easy task to do and only needs to be done one time.
However, if you are planning on being away from your home for a long time, then it might benefit you to adjust the temperature before you leave and put it back when you come home.
To adjust the temperature setting on your electric water heater, take a screwdriver and unscrew the temperature dial cover located on the side of the tank.
Once the cover’s removed, use a flathead screwdriver to adjust the temperature setting to 120 degrees. To save about 5% of energy cost, lower your temperature 10 degrees. Every 10 degrees that it’s lowered, you’ll around 5%.
When leaving for a long period of time, put the temperature to its lowest setting or shut it off until you return home.
For a gas water heater, there’s a valve located on the outside. There you’ll find a knob with settings on it that allow you to turn it down or set it on “Vacation Mode,” which keeps only the pilot lit.
4. Install a Water Softener
If you live in an area where the mineral content is high in the water systems, then installing a water softener might help expand the lifespan of your water heater.
When an area has high mineral content in the water, it’s known as hard water. Hard water is a culprit in cutting back the lifespan of water heaters.
This is because the mineral content leaves deposits in the water heater, which cause them to have problems much sooner than expected. Installing a water softener helps reduce the risk of mineral content build up in your system.
Maintenance Tips That Are Done Annually
Although the maintenance tips listed above are great ways to easily and conveniently maintain your water heater system with only one task, it’s important to remember that following the above tips doesn’t mean you no longer need to perform regular maintenance on the system.
The tips listed above are awesome one-time tasks that will greatly benefit your water heater. However, if you want to ensure that you’re not throwing money down the drain, you’ll want to keep up with the necessary annual maintenance tips as well.
Listed below are 5 maintenance tips that should be done annually on your water heater.
1. Maintenance Checks
Regular maintenance checks should be done to preserve the lifespan of your water heater.
These annual checks should be done to inspect any signs of leaking, damage, or any other signs of trouble. Professionals will check for cracks in the body, leaking or gaps in the joints, and much more.
If a leak is spotted, act on it as quickly as possible. If a small leak goes untreated, major damage can shock you down the road. Even a small leak can cause flooding and damage to nearby personal items.
A leak in the body of the water heater means you’ll need to replace it.
If a pipe is leaking, it may only need to be tightened or a part may need to be replaced. Be sure to call in the professionals if you notice a leak before your annual maintenance check.
2. Checking the Anode Rod
The anode rod protects the tank from rusting on the inside.
Because of this, the anode rod is an important factor in keeping your water heater tank running properly. The anode rod should be checked each year.
Without a rod or without a properly functioning rod, the hot water quickly corrodes inside the tank. This drastically shortens its lifespan. To check the rod, you’ll want to let out a few gallons of water by placing a hose on the tank’s drain cock.
Now, place a 1 1/16 of an inch socket on the rod’s hex head located on top of the water heater. You might also find it located under the water heater’s top plate. Once you locate it, unscrew the rod.
If you find it coated with calcium and less than 1/2 of an inch thick, then it’s time to replace it.
You can wrap the threads of the rod with Teflon tape and place it back inside the tank while securing it tightly. If the headspace above the tank is limited, you can use a segmented rod.
3. Testing the Temperature Pressure-Relief Valve
To test the temperature pressure relief valve or (TPR), you’ll need to shut off the cold-water supply valve and the power.
Find the pipe connected to the TPR located either on the side of the tank or on top of it and place a bucket under it. The valve will open if the pressure in the tank becomes too high.
Life up the tab on the valve and release some of the water.
Once some water has drained, let off the tab. If the water continues to drain, you’ll want to drain the tank halfway and unscrew the old valve so that you can then replace it with a new one.
4. Inspect Gas Lines
Inspecting the gas lines is something that only needs to be done if your water heater is connected to gas lines.
During your inspection, if you find any corrosion or cracks in or on the pipes, they will need to be corrected or replaced immediately. If there is any suspicion of leaking gas, also take immediate action as this is extremely dangerous.
5. Flushing the Tank
Flushing the tank is something that should be done at least once a year, but it’s something that can also be done once every 6 months as well. To do this, you can drain a couple of gallons of water out from your water heater and thoroughly examine the water. If the water appears to be filled with debris or dirt, then a full cleaning of the water heater should be completed.
The cost of energy rises significantly when there is a build-up of dirt and debris in your water heater tank. There are newer models of water heaters that do a self-clean of the system, which is great for keeping dirt and debris at a minimum, however, you’ll still want to complete an annual flush of the tank to ensure it’s clean.
When All Else Fails, Call the Professionals
Following these simple steps is the best way to improve the hot water heater lifespan of your system. Although these tips are simple, they can be quite difficult for someone who is not a professional. If you believe that your water heater needs maintenance, repairs, or replacement, call Acosta Plumbing Solutions.
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