The typical water heater usually lasts anywhere between eight and 15 years. As the unit ages, it begins to deteriorate due to oxidization in the inner steel component of the tank. Sediment buildup is another issue that can also lead to decreased performance. With good care and maintenance, however, it is possible to keep your water heater running for upwards of 20 years. If you are looking to prolong your water heater, then the following tips will add an extra few years of life to the unit.
Replace the Anode Rod at the First Signs of Rust
The anode rod is a thin pipe with a hexagonal head and is located above the tank. It protects the heater by removing corrosive elements from the water. As the rod begins to rust due to old age, it also loses its ability to filter out harmful sediments. The rod can be removed by shutting off the water and unscrewing the rod with an impact wrench. It is recommended to replace the anode rod every five years or sooner if it shows signs of rust.
Install an Expansion Tank
The addition of an expansion tank could double the life of the heater. When the water is heated anywhere between 50 to 120 degrees, it expands in volume by about 2%. In a closed system where excess water is unable to flow back into the supply line, the water will rapidly increase and decrease in pressure. The repeated expanding and contracting taking place inside the tank puts tremendous stress on both the water heater and plumbing system.
The addition of an expansion tank will provide a place for the extra water to flow to when it expands due to pressure influx.
Flush Out the Tank
You should flush the tank at least once a year. Some of the newer models actually do this automatically; though older models need to be flushed manually by the owner.
Follow these steps to manually flush out the tank:
- Shut off the gas and electricity to the water heater
- Switch off the inlet water valve
- Open the tank's drain valve and connect it to a garden hose
- Position the end of the hose in an open area that won't be affected by draining and scalding water
- Open both the drain valve and pressure relief valve to allow the tank to drain
Allowing the tank to drain will remove accumulating sediments that build up over time.
Install a Pressure Regulator Valve
Water pressure that reaches above 90 PSI can cause premature wear on the water heater. Consider installing a pressure regulator valve to prevent the pressure from rising to dangerous levels. It is recommended that a pressure regulator valve be installed in conjunction with an expansion tank for maximum effect.
Install a Water Softener
In some regions, the water that comes out of the faucet is laced with heavy minerals. While invisible to the naked eye, microscopic particles in the water can cause what is known as hard water. Hard water leaves behind minerals and tiny particles in the tank and pipes, which drastically reduces a heater's proficiency. It also degrades the quality of the water that spits out from the faucet and showers.
Water softener units may cost as much as the water heater itself and require installation by a handyman, like those at Arpis Industries LTD. However, it is an investment that will pay itself off over several years.
A water heater needs to be maintained just like any other appliance. Its performance and life expectancy depend squarely on you and whether you give it the attention it needs to continue to function optimally.