No one likes a cold shower! Water heaters are essential to your enjoyment of your home, but they are also expensive. Not only do they cost money to replace, but repairs and additional energy costs from poor function can add up quickly. However, there are few ways that you can extend the life of your water heater and keep it running smoothly and efficiently.
How Do Water Heaters Age?
In order to extend the life of your water heater, it is important to understand their lifespan and the ways they can break down. Most water heaters are made to last around eight to fifteen years, although they can last up to twenty with good care. Tankless water heaters will last around twice as long. Water heaters are made of metal, usually steel, that is lined with glass or porcelain to prevent the water damaging the metal. However, over time this lining develops cracks and the metal begins to oxidize. In addition, sediment from the water begins to build up and lower efficiency.
The first signs of deterioration usually include gradual loss of efficiency. You may notice that your water heater is taking longer to heat or not producing as hot of water. In addition, you will see a gradual rise in your electric or gas bill. Later, the water heater may begin to leak. The initial leaks are slow; you will usually only see a small amount of water near the tank rather than actual dripping. Even a small amount of leaking can damage your foundation and flooring when it is constant. With time, the leak will become more severe; it's important to know where your water shutoff is located in case the leak worsens suddenly. At this point, the water heater needs to be replaced, which is an expensive proposition.
Invest in Routine Maintenance
Having your water heater inspected and flushed once a year can make a huge difference in its lifespan. Flushing the tank removes sediment and some of the scaling that reduce efficiency and corrode the lining. Many water heaters are self-cleaning, but a yearly flush still extends their lifespan. Routine maintenance pays for itself by helping your water heater last longer and allowing you to repair issues before the system breaks down altogether.
Prevent Sediment With Water Softener
Sediment and scaling will eventually cause a great deal of wear and tear while reducing the efficiency of your water heater. This is especially true if you live in an area with hard water. Hard water has minerals in it that can gather on the inner surfaces of a water heater and break down the lining while compromising efficiency. Installing a water softener will ensure that most of these minerals are removed from your water before they can wreak havoc on your water heater.
Add a Second Anode Rod
An anode rod is a rod made of aluminum or magnesium that attracts minerals and ions in water. They corrode this rod rather than corroding the inside of your water heater. Water heaters already have one anode rod, but adding a second can extend the life of the water heater significantly.
Consider an Expansion Tank
You probably know that liquids expand when they are heated. When cold water enters your tank and then is heated to around 120 degrees, it expands around 2%. This may not seem like much, but it's equivalent to an extra gallon of water in a 50 gallon tank. If you have a closed system, which has a valve preventing water from flowing back into water lines, this pressure eventually wears down your water heater tank as well as your water lines. An expansion tank gives this extra water somewhere to go, which means that there is less pressure on your tank.
Add a Pressure Regulator Valve
A pressure regulator valve, or PRV, does exactly as the name suggests. High water pressure, defined as pressure above 90 PSI, damages not just your water heater but your plumbing and many other appliances. Your water heater simply will not last as long when it is constantly under pressure. A pressure regulator valve will ensure that pressure stays constant and at a reasonable level. A PVR is generally installed along with an expansion tank in systems with high pressure.
If you want to expand the working lifespan of this expensive appliance, talk to a residential plumber today. A plumber can inspect your water heater and let you know what preventative measures are most important for your hot water heating system.