Yes, we talk about this a lot, but we do get asked about it a lot, so here we go again! To most people, their hot water tank is just a widget that does what it does and lasts as long as it lasts, not realizing that there are maintenance tasks that can extend its life significantly. Maximize the lifespan of your water heater, and you’re saving money.
On average, a hot water tank will last 8–10 years, but with regular maintenance, you can extend that to as long as 15 years. Following are some regular maintenance tasks that can delay the inevitable cost of replacement.
Drain the tank annually
If you do not have a water softener, drain your tank every year to get rid of the mineral sediments that collect in the bottom. Do this by running a hose from the tank outlet to either your floor drain or a bucket. Be careful, the water will be hot. You might consider turning the heater down (or off) the day before you drain it.
Keep the combustion chamber clean
Dust, insects and other debris can accumulate inside the combustion chamber, so open it up and vacuum it out every other year.
Have the sacrificial anode replaced every few years
Corrosion is an electrochemical reaction. The galvanic “sacrificial” anode is a rod made of metal more reactive than the tank itself, so any corrosion will occur there first. Over the course of 3–5 years this rod will be consumed, and replacing it can potentially extend the life of the tank. (The same thing is done on the hulls of ships.)
Be aware that while a water softener may minimize the buildup of sediment, the slightly higher sodium content of the water will accelerate the consumption of the anode rod; if you have a softener, be prepared to replace this part at least every three years.
Your water heater will last longer if it’s not constantly working its hardest. For the sake of its longevity (and your safety!) don’t run the heater at its maximum temperature. Water at 70°C can cause burns instantly, while temperatures under 48°C can lead to the proliferation of legionella bacteria. The safe balance between these two factors is about 50°C. If you’re going away for a week or more, turn the dial right down to the Vacation setting to save energy and extend the life of the tank.
Time For Replacement?
If you have never done any of these maintenance tasks and your tank is more than eight years old, you may want to consider replacement. It is far better to replace the tank in a timely manner than to wait for it to fail! Scheduled replacement will likely be less expensive, and is definitely less stressful. Give us a call to discuss your options, including tankless on-demand systems. This is a good time to start thinking about it, as hot water tank failures are more likely to occur in cold weather. We’re currently offering a discount of $250 off total installed cost through the end of September 2017.