Oct 17, 2017
The Life and Death of a Hot Water Heater
The average Northern Virginian doesn’t think twice about running a dishwasher, taking a long shower or firing up the washing machine at any time of day, any day of the week. But if that average person’s water heater suddenly breaks, that little thing taken for granted — a steady supply of hot water, just a twist of the handle away — suddenly becomes a major pain in the neck. What had been just another day becomes a mad rush for plumbing in Warrenton, Va
Luckily, for most homeowners, that hot water heater runs effectively almost all of the time. In fact, part of the reason why hot water heater issues are such a hassle is because problems are so rare. When the hot water suddenly dries up, it can be hard to understand exactly what’s going on.
When your hot water heater is ready to give up the ghost, you need help — fast. Let’s take a look at the life and death of a hot water heater.
How do you know if you need a new hot water heater?
The most obvious answer is that your hot water tank isn’t producing enough (or any) hot water. There are, however, a few other warning signs that you’re in need of a new water heater:
- Rusty water. Rusty water is a clear signal of a faulty system. If you have galvanized piping (a popular choice for houses built before 1960), then you may have rust pipes. If you’re only discovering rusting water from the hot side of your piping, it’s safe to assume that your water heater is rusting away on the inside (which means it will probably leak).
- Tank leaks. It’s normal to have some light condensation on your water heater. If you have noticeable water around your system, you may have a small leak or fracture in your tank. Before replacing your unit, check your nearby fittings and connections. If these pipes aren’t leaking, it may be time to call your local plumbers to replace your water heater.
- Loud noises. It’s not uncommon for a water heater at the end of its life to make a rumbling, banging sound when the water is heating up inside of it. This is a result of the sediment that has built up on the bottom of the tank over time. Not only does this sediment make your system work harder (utilizing more gas or electricity to heat the water), but it’ll cause damage to your tank and cause leaks.
How long can you expect a water heater last?
In general, a hot water heater lasts 10 to 15 years. If you didn’t purchase your tank, though, how can you figure out its age?
There’s a trick that companies use: take a look at the manufacturer’s stick on the upper portion of the water heater. Hidden in the first part of the serial number is the date. Instead of it being a clear date you’re familiar with, though, it’ll have a date code.
In general, the code will start with the letter of the month the heater was built. If it starts with a C (the third letter of the alphabet), for example, it means the company manufactured it in the third month of the year: March. The preceding two digits will represent the year (ex. 07 is 2007). So, if your serial number starts with C07, it means the manufacturer made it in March 2007. To learn more about your date code, check your manufacturer’s website.
How can I maintain a water heater?
It’s important to understand simple water heater repair in order to keep your unit running efficiently and effectively. If your hot water heater is causing problems with your plumbing in Warrenton, Va., follow these tips:
- Check valve pressure. If your temperature-pressure valve doesn’t operate correctly, your unit can over pressurize and explode. To check if it’s working, turn off your water heater’s electricity and the cold-water option. Then, place a bucket under the TPR valve, lift the valve to let water out and then let it go. If water keeps flowing, you know it’s time to install a new valve.
- Drain your tank. Built-up sediment reduces your available hot water, clogs drains and slows your unit’s heat transfer. To remove it, drain the water in your tank into a bucket. You should then be able to stir up the sediment on the bottom of the tank (you may need to briefly open the cold water supply). Then, you can continue to drain the contents and repeat until only clean water is coming out of the hose.
- Insulate your hot water tank. According to the Department of Energy, insulating your hot water tank can save you seven to 16 percent on your energy costs annually. Before installing one, check with your manufacturer to see if they have a recommended insulation blanket. If not, you can cut foil-covered bubble wrap to fit around the tank and seal it with foil tape.
- Monitor anode rod. An anode rod is an important factor in determining the life of your water heater. This piece corrodes in place of your water heater’s lining (typically lasting four or five years). To tell if it’s damaged, you’ll have to remove the rod. In general, if it’s less than ½ inch thick or coated with calcium, it’s time to buy a new one. If you’re not sure how to test this properly, it’s best to contact a trained plumber.
Install a new hot water heater today.