What causes a water heater to fail after such a short time, and is there any way to slow its demise? Here are some insights from our water heater experts.
Common water heater problems and solutions
Problem 1: Internal corrosion – Anywhere that water and steel come together, there will eventually be corrosion. Water heater designers came up with an ingenious way to slow that corrosion: install a device inside the storage tank that draws the corrosion to itself rather than the tank walls. This device – called an anode or “sacrificial” rod – is typically a steel core wire surrounded with either aluminum, magnesium or zinc, and it will typically last about five years – about half that if you use a water softener. Once an anode rod corrodes, it needs to be replaced quickly to prevent accelerated tank rust.
Solution: Get regular professional maintenance for your water heater, and make sure the technician checks the anode rod; do this a minimum of once every other year.
Problem 2: A buildup of sediment – When water is heated, mineral deposits separate and settle onto the bottom of your water heater tank. Over time, these sediments accumulate, reducing the efficiency of your water heater and damaging the tank.
Solution: Flush your water heater once a year.
Problem 3: Water pressure issues – When water pressure is set too high, it can damage your water heater, pipes, and appliances. A typical sign of high water pressure is water is leaking from the overflow pipe on the side of your water heater.
Solution: Set the water pressure to your water heater no higher than 80 psi, and consider replacing your temperature and pressure (T&P) relief valve.
Problem 4: Poor size matching – An undersized water heater will work too hard to do its job, leading to wear and tear and a potential premature breakdown.
Solution: Contact an expert to make sure your current water heater is right-sized for your home and lifestyle.
Problem 5: Age – Once a conventional (storage-type) water heater reaches its second decade, it’s living on borrowed time. Watch for signs of water heater breakdown mentioned above, plus any other obvious signs of diminished performance (higher energy bills, for example).