A water heater is one of the least heralded appliances in most homes, but when they quit working, everyone takes notice. While water heaters are usually low-maintenance items, they will quit working far too soon if certain operating conditions are not satisfied and if homeowners fail to provide sufficient ongoing attention. Below are some of the most important things you can do as a homeowner to protect your hot water heater and keep it running smoothly for years.
Find a Proper Installation Location
While chances are likely you never were asked about the installation location for your water heater, some locations are better than others when it comes to promoting good operating conditions. This especially applies to natural gas-fired water heaters, as they must receive a constant supply of clean air to complete the combustion process.
That’s why if your water heater is located in an area where incoming air is full of contaminants, such as dust, chemicals, or high levels of moisture, then you should consider having the unit moved. Bad air will cause inefficient or dirty combustion, generating a variety of combustion byproducts that are corrosive to tanks. If moving the tank isn’t feasible, then you should make an effort to improve the air quality by removing contaminants or increasing ventilation in the area.
Protect Your Tank from Internal Rust
Another threat to water heaters is rusting from the inside. When water and steel make direct contact, rusting is certain unless steps are taken to prevent it. Water heater manufacturers equip units with sacrificial anodes, which are simply aluminum or magnesium rods that will corrode in place of the surrounding steel tank.
Eventually, these anodes will completely corrode and the water will then began attacking the steel. As a homeowner, your job is to replace these anodes before they dissolve in order to maintain internal rust protection. Most anodes can be expected to last for the warranty period of a water tank, but keep in mind that soft water significantly lessens the amount of time anodes stay intact. That means you will need to check anodes on an annual basis or have the job performed by a qualified plumber to ensure your water heater doesn’t lose its corrosion protection.
Check Your Home’s Water Pressure
Low water pressure can be frustrating and inconvenient, but abnormally high water pressure can actually be destructive to your water heater. Water heaters are designed to operate within certain water pressure parameters; if the incoming cold water supply exceeds the upper limit, it can stress tank components, leading to leaks and other problems.
A plumber can easily test your home’s water pressure and determine if it exceeds the maximum desired level for your water heater. High water pressure can be corrected by implementing plumbing fixes, and your plumber can assist you with finding appropriate solutions.
Drain Sediment on a Periodic Basis
As water is heated, it can leave sediment in the bottom of your tank. Sediment accumulation can lead to corrosion and the destruction of heating elements in electric units. This problem is accelerated when local water supplies are high in solubles; if the water in your area is hard, then your water heater is more susceptible to sediment-driven damage.
You can’t usually prevent sedimentation, but you can drain sediment from water heaters on a periodic basis before it accumulates to a critical level. Most water heaters are equipped with a hose bib where you can attach a garden hose and drain the sediment from the bottom of the tank. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s directions exactly to prevent possible injury or damage to the water heater, or contact a plumber to perform the maintenance for you.