How to Extend the Life of Your Water Heater

A water heater.

Most standard water heaters last between eight and 12 years. However, it should be noted that while an electric water heater can last up to 12 years, a gas water heater may only have a lifespan of six to eight years. The life expectancy of your water heater will really depend on a few different things including the location and design of the unit, how well it has been installed, your water quality, and the maintenance schedule. Also, because it's full of scalding hot water and steam, remember to follow proper safety precautions any time you are doing maintenance on your water heater.

Check the Anode Rod

A corroded anode rod for a water heater.

First of all, make sure to check the anode rod, which is the most crucial part in determining how long your water heater will last as it helps protect the unit from rusting. You can find this rod screwed into the top of your water heater. It's a steel core wire typically surrounded with magnesium—but it might be surrounded by aluminum or zinc instead depending on the water condition.

Although it's nearly impossible to tell how long an anode rod can last, five to 10 years is a good estimate. To help extend the lifespan of your water heater, make sure you replace the anode rod before your tank begins to rust or leak. Once your water tank gets a leak, the whole unit has to be replaced, and a 40-gallon gas water heater can cost anywhere from $500 to $700 or more. So, save yourself the hassle and money, and make sure you check the anode rod periodically.

You should be able to purchase a new anode rod at any hardware store for about $20 to $50. it's a very reasonable investment to help increase the life of your water heater.

Clean or Flush Out Sediment

After a while, your water heater will have built up sediment. This is especially true when you have hard water rather than soft water. If sediment is left to gather in the bottom of your water tank, it will cause a lot of damage! Not only do thick layers of sediment make the unit work harder to heat the water in the tank, but they can also corrode the tank walls, causing leaks. And as we know, once your water heater gets a leak in it, it must be replaced.

The solution? Flush the sediment out every year. To do this, you must turn off the gas or electricity. Then, attach a garden hose to the drain valve that is located at the bottom of the tank. Once it's connected, the sediment will come out through the hose, so make sure the end of your garden house is placed either in a floor drain, in a tub, or outside. To make sure you don't clog any drains, use a colander to catch the sediment. And remember—the water that comes out will be very hot! After you've emptied the tank, turn off the cold water supply to the tank and turn on a hot water faucet somewhere in your house. This will help drain the valve and the tank will then empty. Repeat this step a few times until the water heater tank is clean. You will know it's clean when the water turns from discolored and gunky to clear.

Hard water attacks steal a lot more aggressively than soft water. If you have hard water, make sure you flush the sediment in the tank more often. Installing a water softener can reduce a lot of the regular wear and tear on your water heater from hard water.

Check the Pressure Relief Valve

A water repair man.

All water heaters come with a pressure relief valve. This is a safety feature, as the valve will open any time there is too much pressure of heat built up. The pressure relief valve helps prevent damage to the water heater unit, and also helps prevent dangerous explosions!

Checking the pressure relief valve will not only help extend the life of your water heater, but it also makes sure it is functioning properly and is good for your safety. Residue and sediment can build up over time and block the valve's opening, so make sure to check it regularly throughout the year. It's quite a simple task. All you need to do is turn off the gas or electricity (again, for your safety) and open and close the valve several times. If it's working properly, water should flow from the drainpipe when the valve is open.