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Tips to Extend the Life of Your Water Heater

Many owners don't realize the cost of energy increases significantly when there is a build-up of dirt and debris in your water heater


Water heaters are an important part of a home. As such, regular maintenance can help ensure you get the maximum years of use from it.


Some maintenance will require a professional. However, there are several things you can do in between professional service that will keep your water heater in optimal condition


A Note about the average water heater lifespan

Gas water heaters typically last between 8 and 12 years with proper maintenance. Electric water heaters last about 10 to 15 years when they are properly maintained.


Today’s more modern models of water heaters do last longer than the past models, but proper maintenance is still required to get the most years of use out of it.


5 One-Time Maintenance Tips


These 5 water heater maintenance tips only need to be done once and will make a big difference in extending the life of your water heater.


Give it Space


Save money and stress down the road by giving your water heater plenty of space. Pick and area where there is plenty of free space around the system when installing. This provides you with an optimal space for completing routine maintenance checks of the system without difficulty. Also, giving the system this much-needed air to breathe increases airflow and reduces the risk of fires. Make sure to keep any cleaning products or tools such as vacuums, brooms, mops, and others away from the area.


Installing Insulation


Insulation should be installed around the pipes and the heater itself. Purchase pipe insulation that matches the water heater’s pipes in length and diameter. Experts recommend using a foam self-sticking insulation that is 3/8 of an inch thick. The insulation should cover both the hot water and cold water pipes. Cover the pipes back as much as you can. During the summertime, this prevents the pipes from sweating or forming condensation. If the pipes are 6 inches or closer to the flue, then you should use a 1-inch thick unfaced fiberglass pipe wrap as cover.


Setting the Temperature


Technically this only needs to be done one time.


However, if you are planning on being away from your home for a long time, then it is recommended to adjust the temperature to its lowest setting or shut off before you leave. Simply, put the temperature back to the previous setting when you come home. For a gas water heater, there is a valve located on the outside. The knob has settings on it that allow you to turn the water heater down or set it on “Vacation Mode,” which keeps only the pilot lit.


Add an Expansion Tank


Expansion tanks can greatly improve your water heater lifespan. This is especially true with water heaters that have closed systems. Closed systems don’t allow for backflow into the water main, so when the water expands, there is nowhere for it to go. Constant changes in pressure put your water heater through a lot of stress, which eventually wears it down. An expansion tank creates an outlet for the water, reducing stress on your system.


Install a Water Softener


High mineral content in the water is known as hard water. Hard water can reduce the lifespan of water heaters. This is because the mineral content leaves deposits in the water heater, which causes problems. Installing a water softener helps reduce the risk of mineral content build up in your system.


5 Annual Maintenance Tips


In addition to the maintenance tips listed above, it’s important to perform regular maintenance on your water heater system.


Maintenance Checks


Annual maintenance checks should be done to inspect any signs of leaking, damage, or any other signs of trouble. Professionals will check for cracks in the body, leaking or gaps in the joints, and much more. If a leak is spotted, act on it as quickly as possible. Even a small leak can cause flooding and damage to nearby personal items.


A leak in the body of the water heater means you’ll need to replace it.


If a pipe is leaking, it may need to be tightened or a part may need to be replaced. Call in the professionals if you notice a leak before your annual maintenance check.


Checking the Anode Rod


The anode rod protects the tank from rusting on the inside. This is why the the anode rod is an important factor in keeping your water heater tank running properly. The anode rod should be checked each year. Without a properly functioning rod, the hot water quickly corrodes inside the tank. This dramatically shortens your water heater lifespan.


To check the rod, let out a few gallons of water by placing a hose on the tank’s drain cock.


Now, place a 1 1/16 of an inch socket on the rod’s hex head located on top of the water heater. You might also find it located under the water heater’s top plate. Once you locate it, unscrew the rod. If you find it coated with calcium and less than 1/2 of an inch thick, then it’s time to replace it. You can wrap the threads of the rod with Teflon tape and place it back inside the tank while securing it tightly. If the headspace above the tank is limited, you can use a segmented rod.


Testing the Temperature Pressure-Relief Valve


To test the temperature pressure relief valve or (TPR), shut off the cold-water supply valve and the power. Find the pipe connected to the TPR located either on the side of the tank or on top of it and place a bucket under it. The valve will open if the pressure in the tank becomes too high. Lift up the tab on the valve and release some of the water. Once some water has drained, push down the tab. If the water continues to drain, you should drain the tank halfway. Then unscrew the old valve and replace it with a new one.



Inspect Gas Lines


You only need to inspect your gas line if your water heater is connected to gas lines.


During your inspection, if you find any corrosion or cracks in or on the pipes, replace them right away. If there is any suspicion of leaking gas, take immediate action as this is extremely dangerous.



Flushing the Tank


Flushing the tank should be done at least once a year, but ideally every 6 months as well. Simply drain a couple of gallons of water out from your water heater and thoroughly examine the water. If the water appears to be filled with debris or dirt, then do a full cleaning of the water heater.


The cost of energy increases significantly when there is a build-up of dirt and debris in your water heater tank. There are newer models of water heaters that do a self-clean of the system, However, you should still complete an annual flush of the tank to ensure it’s clean.


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