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  • Plumbtastic Solutions

How to extend your water heater shelf life with five basic maintenance steps

Updated: Dec 16, 2019

The residential water heater is hands-down one of the hardest working appliances in the home today. Water heaters are constantly working to maintain the water temperature as it cools, causing the water heater to fire up so it can recover its desired temperature setting in response to its thermostat or gas valve. This is all happens while it’s inner workings are juggling some of nature’s most destructive & corrosive elements: fire, water, and air.  

Gas water heaters typically cost about $45 a month to run while electric water heaters run closer to $65 a month depending on utility rates. Water heating accounts for 17.7% of residential energy use.  Water heaters are found in 97% of residential homes across the United States. This averages out to 110.6 million residential water heaters. 23.4% are gas and 45.6% are electric, while tankless water heaters represent 10% of existing water heaters. 

The lack of proper maintenance on a water heater has a tremendous effect on the performance, efficiency, and energy rating of your water heater. Deficiencies in this area can cause your water heater to use more gas as it attempts to raise the temperature of the water. It also breaks down the material the tank is made out of essentially requiring replacement of the water heater. 35 minutes a year is all that is required to combat these energy related issues which contribute to carbon pollution, and rising cost of energy. 

It has been shown that local water quality is the primary cause of water heater failure. Water quality impacts a water heaters efficiency and longevity. Water quality also impacts the performance of water heating, whether due to soft water that is corrosive or hard water which produces scale inside our water heaters tank. Soft water will rust and eat away at components in the water heater resulting in leaks and premature failure, while hard water will have the propensity to precipitate mineral deposits on any surface and build up sediment in the bottom of the tanks which can decrease the efficiency of the water heater as well as impact it's lifetime and increase maintenance requirements. 

The primary impact of hard water on the water heater performance is the build up of scale on heating components including heat exchangers, heating elements, or the bottom of the tank. This will decrease efficiency in some cases but most likely will not lead to premature failure of the equipment. 

Lime scale build up overtime can also clog hot water pipes, the drain valve on the water heater, and the temperature and pressure relief valve on the water heater. This impacts the maintenance and safety related performance of the water heater because the sediment particles are heavier than water. Once a coating has been formed on an available surface, the sediment particles tend to sink and accumulate at the bottom of the tank. Accumulation of free sediment at the bottom of the tank is more likely to result in reduced equipment lifetime due to over heating elements in electric storage water heaters and overheating tank material in gas storage water heaters at the bottom underneath the sediment which can eventually cause a water heater to fail.  

Now, let’s look at a few inexpensive ways to enhance the performance energy efficiency and extend the longevity of our water heaters.

1- Flushing the water heater tank out weather electric or gas is very effective in extending the water heater’s life and efficiency. At the bottom of the water heater is a drain valve and by attaching a water hose to the drain valve at the bottom of the tank with the hose stretched outside or into the drain you can open the drain valve with pressure on at tank and allow sediment to escape from the bottom of tank.

2- To help get rid of hard or soft water, installing a water softener on the water system in the long run can save costly repairs like replacing fixtures, faucets, water heaters, shower valves, and the water piping itself.

3-Replacing the anode rod can be a very effective strategy for controlling corrosion. Anode rods work by leveraging the galvanic scale.  Anode rods can produce a foul smell in the water when they go out.

4-Check to make sure pressure relief valve works properly on the water heater. The purpose of the pressure relief valve on your tank is to relieve excess pressure as it builds up inside the water heater.

5-Vacuum & dust out area around bottom of water heater, also check to make sure the screen or filters around the bottom of the water heater are free of lint, dust, or any other debris which can restrict airflow inside the burner chamber which can limit gas valve efficiency & ventilation .

The average water heater installation today ranges between $1500 and $2300 depending on labor, materials  also any updates required by local code, required to pass inspection . 

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