How to Maintain Your Water Heater to Extend Its Lifespan

How to Maintain Your Water Heater to Extend Its Lifespan

Hot water is a staple of modern life. Gone are the days of taking cold baths or showers unless you want to. That is, until your water heater breaks down. Most homeowners don’t think about their water heaters until there is a problem, and by then, it’s often too late to do anything but pay for a repair or whole replacement.

While our southeast Minnesota-based team is ready to perform any repairs on your water heater to keep it running for as long as possible, there are some steps you can take to prevent a breakdown or at least put it off for a few more years.

Get the scoop on simple water heater maintenance that can add years to your equipment!

How Long Does a Water Heater Usually Last?

A typical homeowner's water heater will generally last between 8 to 12 years. This lifespan is influenced by several factors, including the unit's quality, the maintenance level, and the hardness of the water it heats.

While this might not seem like a long time, especially compared to other home appliances, remember that you use your water heater every day. Sometimes, it works around the clock to ensure you have hot water whenever needed.

Regular maintenance, such as periodic draining to remove sediment, can prolong the water heater's lifespan. Conversely, hard water, which contains high levels of minerals, can cause build-up in the tank, reducing its efficiency and lifespan.

Get a Longer Life Out of Your Water Heater

To ensure you get a full 12 years or more from your water heater, here are some preventative maintenance tips on what to check and how often:

Flush the Tank

Flushing your water heater tank is crucial to maintain its longevity, especially if your home has hard water. It helps eliminate any sediment buildup that can hinder the heater's efficiency, causing it to work harder and use more energy.

In turn, this extends the lifespan of your water heater, saving you from premature replacement costs. It also ensures that your hot water remains clean and free of any unpleasant odors or tastes caused by the sediment.

We recommend performing a tank flush every 4-6 months. To flush your water heater, simply turn off the heater (and gas, if your water heater runs gas), connect a garden hose to the drain valve, open the pressure relief valve, and then open the drain valve, allowing the water to flow out until it runs clear.

Check the Temperature Pressure Relief Valve

The Temperature Pressure Relief (TPR) valve on a water heater is essential for maintaining safety and efficiency. If the tank gets too hot or builds up too much pressure, the relief valve will open and prevent ruptures, explosions, or other damage to the tank.

Residue buildup or sediment blockages are usually what cause pressure problems with your water heater, so check that the TPR valve is working correctly at least once a year, though several times a year is optimal.

To check the TPR valve, turn off the gas or electricity to your unit, then open and close the valve a few times. A well-functioning valve will release water when it’s open. If no water comes out of the drainpipe, then replace the valve immediately. This is a quick and cheap fix compared to replacing your whole unit.

Monitor the Anode Rod

An anode rod, often called a "sacrificial" anode rod, is a crucial component of a water heater that works to prevent the tank from rusting. The rod, typically made of magnesium or aluminum with a core of zinc or steel, undergoes corrosion instead of the water heater's tank itself, hence the term "sacrificial".

You should check the rod every year, but you’ll want to replace it every 2-5 years to prolong the life of your water heater. Inspect the rod for any significant signs of corrosion. If more than six inches of the core steel wire is visible, or the rod is less than 1/2 inch thick, it's time for a replacement.

To check the condition of an anode rod, you'll first need to turn off the power and water supply to your water heater, then locate the anode rod on the top. Some models have the rod directly screwed into the top, while others have it under a top plate. Once you've located it, unscrew and carefully remove the rod to see if it has any corrosion.

To replace the rod, simply insert the new one in the spot of the old one, ensuring it's securely fastened. After this, you can restore the power and water supply. Regular inspection and timely replacement of the anode rod can significantly extend the lifespan of your water heater.

Invest in Water Softeners or a Water Filtration System

Especially for those living with hard water, purchasing water softeners can significantly impact your water heater’s lifespan. Since the main cause of a deteriorating water heater is sediment buildup that leads to corrosion, reducing that sediment should be a top concern.

If you don’t want to lug heavy bags of water-softening salts to your water heater every few months, consider investing in a water filtration system. A whole-home system filters out minerals that lead to sediment buildup in your water heater, while also cleansing your water for a fresher taste and healthier living.

When to Call a Plumber for Water Heater Repair

Even with the best care and regular check-ups, your water heater will need professional help or a replacement at some point. Here are some signs for when you should call a pro plumber to perform a thorough water heater and plumbing inspection:

  • Water is leaking from the tank.

  • Strange noises are coming from the unit.

  • The hot water runs out faster than normal or isn’t as hot as usual.

  • The water is discolored.

  • The pilot light for gas water heaters continually goes out.

  • The unit is more than 8-years-old.

While these red flags might be repairable, the older your water heater is, the more likely you will need to replace it once these signs develop. Always let a professional help you assess your best options.

Call S&S Heating and Cooling for Water Heater Maintenance

Let S&S Heating and Cooling be your go-to for all your water heater and plumbing needs! Our master plumber and team of certified technicians will do everything in their power to ensure all of your water systems are working at their highest level.

Extend the life of your water heater, plumbing, and all of your heating and cooling equipment with a little help from your local HVAC and plumbing services provider. Call 507-796-6391 or message us online to schedule an appointment and get a free estimate today!