While your hot water tank may not be the most expensive appliance in your home, it is still a significant investment. A typical tank-style water heater can last for a little over a decade, but proper maintenance can potentially extend that lifespan even further. Of course, the reverse is also true: improper maintenance can lead to a reduced lifespan and increased frequency of repairs.
If you want your home’s water heater to last for as long as possible, you should add a few straightforward maintenance steps to your yearly routine. These four simple items will help to ensure that your home’s water heater doesn’t leave you out in the cold.
1. Use Your Ears
One way to tell if you’ve been neglecting your hot water tank for a little too long is to listen to it. A properly functioning tank shouldn’t produce much noise, so any sounds you hear may be early warning signs of trouble. In particular, listen carefully for an audible popping or gurgling noise. These sounds usually indicate excessive sediment build-up in your tank.
Too much sediment on the bottom of your tank will act as an insulator. Not only will this reduce your water heater’s efficiency, but it can also damage the tank itself. Sediment may pose a risk to electric heating elements, as well. If your sediment problem has gotten bad enough to produce a noise, drain your tank immediately to prevent long-term damage.
2. Check Your Anode
Do you know what an anode rod is? How water heater tanks are generally made of steel, which leaves the walls susceptible to corrosion. An inner glass lining helps to reduce rust, but all models expose at least some steel to water. A sacrificial anode rod prevents this exposed steel from rusting away and creating leaks.
The basics of this protective measure are simple: the rod’s material is more reactive than the metal in the tank walls, so it corrodes instead of the steel. As long as the rod is in relatively good condition, your tank remains protected. Most anode rods last about six years, so expect to replace yours at least once to ensure that your water heater lasts for as long as possible.
3. Adjust the Temperature
Your water heater has a temperature dial that you can use to increase or decrease the temperature of the water. While you shouldn’t have to adjust this temperature often, you may be able to extend the life of your water heater (and reduce your utility bills) by turning it down slightly. The lower you set the target temperature, the longer your tank’s heating elements are likely to last.
The best thing you can do is to check your current temperature and adjust it down to 120 degrees. After making this adjustment, check each hot water location in your home. If the temperature is too cold, make slow adjustments upwards until you reach an appropriate level. By making this one small change, you may save hundreds of dollars on energy bills while also extending your heater’s lifespan.
4. Schedule Annual Inspections
Finally, be sure to schedule an annual inspection with a plumber to check your hot water heater and other plumbing appliances. As with any complex piece of equipment, the best way to extend your water heater’s lifespan and avoid costly repairs is to catch problems early. An inspection can reveal these issues before they become severe enough to warrant a replacement.
Whether your water heater has already failed or you’re just looking for some help with essential maintenance, Quality Plumbing is here for you. We can tackle water heater jobs of any size, so give us a call to set up an appointment!