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Hot Water Heater Maintenance Can Make Your Tank Last Longer

February 22nd, 2010

Hot Water Heater Maintenance Can Make Your Tank Last Longer

Hot Water Heater Maintenance Can Make Your Tank Last Longer

If you’ve grown accustomed to replacing your hot water heater every 10 years, chances are good that you’re not doing much maintenance on your tank. A hot water heater that’s properly maintained can last for decades, but those that go without maintenance can break down and become inefficient within a few years of installation. If you’re having difficulty with your hot water heater, Boston Standard Plumbing offers Boston-area hot water heater maintenance and repair services.

Since most hot water heaters are made of metal, rust and corrosion are the two big worries for most tank setups. If metal and water are a naturally bad combination, then metal and hot water are decidedly worse! Left to themselves, they’ll promote corrosion quickly though a natural phenomenon known as a galvanic reaction. Hot water heaters, therefore, are designed with a sacrificial anode that takes the galvanic hit in place of the tank itself. When the sacrificial anode is used up, however, the corrosion process will start to affect the tank, weakening it and shortening its lifespan. This sets up the disastrous hot water heater tank failure that dumps 40 or 50 gallons of hot water on your basement floor, foundation or utility closet.

Step one, therefore, with hot water heater maintenance is knowing what your sacrificial anode is made of and what its expected lifetime is. For many tanks, the sacrificial anode threads into the tank like a screw, however most tanks don’t have enough overhead clearance to get the spent rod out. In this case, the hot water tank may need to be disconnected and moved to a different location to withdraw the spent anode(s) and reinsert a fresh one. Laying the tank on its side when removing the spent anode isn’t recommended, since the weakened anode may be more likely to break inside the tank, leaving sediment and bits of broken rod behind. Also note that some long-life tanks are designed with two anodes instead of one. If your tank has a two-anode setup, be prepared to replace both anodes.

Sediment from the water and from the deterioration of the anode can collect at the base of the tank. Over time, this sediment can harden and reduce the heating efficiency of the tank. Some tanks are built with a drain at the base to help clear out sediment. Other tanks have a rotary mechanism that helps keep the sediment from hardening. Check the manual for your tank, if you have one. Set up a monthly maintenance schedule to drain a small amount of water from the base of the tank. By removing the sediment buildup, you can monitor the health of your hot water tank and help keep its heating efficiency high.

Homeowners often complain of low water pressure, but high water pressure can be very hard on water appliances, including hot water heaters. If your water pressure is above about 80 psi, your appliances and valves can be damaged. A pressure gauge inserted inline can determine your water pressure. If your water pressure is too high, a special valve that lowers the water pressure may be needed to protect your plumbed appliances.

If you need assistance with the maintenance on your hot water heater, or want help troubleshooting hot water problems in your home, Boston Standard Plumbing is here to help. Call us at (617) 288-2911 and schedule an appointment today. We can service virtually all makes and models of hot water heaters, and can provide you with instructions on how to properly maintain your hot water heater.

Photo Credit: Vagabond Shutterbug, via Flickr

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