Having hot water is a great convenience and something none of us like to be without. For the most part, water heaters are an “install and forget about it” appliance. They are fairly reliable and may function properly until the day they need to be replaced with a new unit.
Most water heaters last between 8-12 years before they need to be replaced. Internal parts can become corroded or encased in a buildup of minerals and cause a decline in inefficiency. If you have an older water heater, here are some things to watch for, as well as ways you can help extend its life.
How Do You Know When Your Water Heater Is Going Bad?
With most water heaters, there are only a few signs that indicate a water heater may be on its last leg…
- If it is a gas water heater, the unit may start making noise, such as popping and cracking sounds, which indicates it has some lime in the bottom of it. Normally this will happen in areas with high water hardness and when the tank is several years old.
- If the water heater is electric, the elements and thermostats may fail.
- If the unit stops keeping a consistent water temperature, it probably needs to be repaired or replaced.
- When the tank itself starts to leak, this is a key indication that the unit has to be replaced.
What Are Some Reasons Why a Water Heater Would Go Bad
- Age: Most heaters last approximately 8-12 years
- Water quality: Areas with poor water quality tend to see water heaters fail earlier
- Amount of use: A family of six will use more hot water than a single or couple, so there is more wear-and-tear on the tank and its parts.
- Water pressure: Some areas have very high water pressure, and tanks fail earlier in these areas.
- No expansion tank: As cold water comes into a tank, heat is applied, and expansion takes place. Having a small expansion tank installed at the water heater allows a place for this expansion to happen without adding pressure and stress to the water heater tank itself.
How to Keep Your Hot Water Heater Healthy
- If it is a gas heater, keep the air intake vents at the bottom or sides of the unit clean and clear of objects. It takes air for the unit to maintain the pilot light and proper combustion.
- Make sure the flue is in good condition.
- Add an expansion tank, if you don’t have one.
- Have a pressure-reducing valve installed to regulate the water pressure in the home.
- Improve the water quality by installing a water softener.
- In areas with a high mineral content in the water, draining the heater and flushing the tank every year can help prevent a large amount of buildup. This works only if done consistently — draining the heater less frequently is not recommended, as other issues can occur during that process.
- Check the unit every few months to make sure there isn’t water at the base. Catching a leak early and taking action may prevent a more severe water leak down the road.