Water Heaters are not the kind of appliance that most people want to spend a bunch of money on. All they really know is that they want hot water when they need it. Many homeowners take these devices for granted, until they're left with cold water only; or worse, a flood in their attic, garage, or hallway. In that moment, most homeowners think that their water heater just needs to be serviced. In some cases, that may be true; however, this is most commonly seen as the time to replace.
Those old school, tanked water heaters are not the biggest challenge to a plumber though. There are very few components that fail - other than the gas valve, burner assembly, or the tank itself. In most instances, this is where we begin to see how our behavior as homeowners can severely impact the performance and longevity of the mechanical equipment in our home. Water Heaters are just one of the many pieces of equipment that take a beating for years before they finally give up and fall victim to our abuse.
A Few Maintenance Items
All joking aside, there are a few things that you can do to push your water heater down the road. After all, you do not want to come home to a huge mess! If it's been a little while since your water heater was last cared for, here are a few things that we inspect when we are performing repairs and service on Water Heating Systems.
- When was the Water Heater last drained?
- Inspect Gas Valve & Flex for Leaks
- Inspect Burner Assembly, Vacuum out Burner Compartment
- Inspect Draft Diverter, Ensure it's secure and properly vented.
- Inspect Water Flex Lines, look for signs of calcium buildup.
We still are not sure who considered this to be "properly" installed, but it's probably a good thing there was never an earthquake big enough to "rock" this guy around. Of course, to make it easier for them, the installing contractor even turned this water heater at a 30-degree angle so you had an even more impossible time lighting it.
Finally, the water heater blanket just kills me. Not only does it provide a very warm and comfortable environment for critters, they just are not useful in the Desert. For a better portion of the year, we are trying to cool water down - not heat it up. Perhaps my favorite part of the water heater blanket is the black strap randomly located in the center.
When the water heater blanket is open like this one is, there is no added benefit to having it installed. In fact, you're only giving it a comfortable place for natures finest suspects to hang out in there.
If you think all of that is bad looking, you should see what is actually sitting in the bottom of a tanked water heater after it's been in use for 15+ Years.
What does it actually look like?
The photos below are from a 30 Gallon, Natural Gas Water Heater that was 17 Years Old. There was nearly six-inches of sediment on the bottom - essentially built all of the way up to the gas valve's thermostatic probe.
- 6+ Inches of Sediment on the Bottom of the Tank.
- Broken "Dip Tube"
- Anode Rod Completely Eroded
- Sediment up-to the Gas Valve's Thermostatic Probe
The "Bottom Line"
As sediment builds on the bottom of the tank, the layer continues to grow in density, as well as size. Over time, the direct flame that is applied to the bottom of the tank causes hot-spots on the tank and the lining. Eventually, the corrosion becomes widespread, and the tank fails. That is only one scenario.
Regular maintenance will help you keep things moving as long as possible. Draining the water heater annually, if not semi-annually, you can extend the life of the water heater by a number of years.