It’s incredibly easy as a homeowner to forget all about your hot water heater as soon as it’s installed and working great for you. But that changes the moment something’s not right and you’re out all the gallons of hot water that you need to operate! Here’s how you can keep your unit up and running, so you can rely on it when you need it the most.
Maintaining Your Water Heater
Regular maintenance is key to a long life for your hot water heater. Spending just a couple of hours on upkeep every year can pay off by extending its lifespan giving you more years of safe use. Here are a few key elements of water heater maintenance to remember.
Flushing Your Hot Water Heater
Flushing your hot water heater (once or twice per year) gets rid of the sediment that builds up in the tank and on the heating elements and causes rumbling noises, inefficiency, and corrosion! Flushing your hot water heater means emptying your tank by attaching a hose and letting the water drain into a floor drain or large bucket. (Before a flush, you should turn off your water heater, gas connection, and cold water supply!) Opening the drain spigot and allowing the water to flow until it runs clear will rid the tank of the harmful sediment. This process should take around half an hour, but if you’re not prepared to do the flush yourself, it’s in your best interest to call a professional to handle it.
If your home really suffers from hard water—evidenced by all the sediment and scale you have to flush from your water heater—you may want to consider a water softener or water treatment system. A water treatment system will keep your water heater maintenance to a minimum and eliminate the calcium and magnesium that do such damage to your tank and its heating elements.
Checking Your Anode Rod
Periodically, you should check up on your hot water heater’s anode rod. The purpose of the anode rod is to attract corrosive material to itself to prevent that material from corroding your tank. Since its job is to corrode itself (so that your tank won’t!), you have to monitor how corroded it is so that it can still be effective. The rod should be at least ¾” thick. If it’s any less than ½” thick (or covered with mineral scale) it should be replaced by a professional.
Adjusting Water Heater Temperature
Your water heater should be in the 120ºF–140ºF range. Where you keep your temperature is up to your preferences, whether you have older/younger children, many/few occupants in the home, etc. The lower the temperature, the more you can expect to save on energy costs. You should also turn your water heater down or off if you are leaving for an extended period of time or going on vacation!
How Long Does a Hot Water Heater Last?
The expected lifespan of a tank heater is around 8-12 years, sometimes 10 to 15 years, if well-maintained. The expected lifespan of a tankless water heater is longer—20 years or more, if well-maintained. (For this reason, tankless water heaters can be a great investment for your home!) In either case, maintenance is key to a long lifespan for your water heater.
Diagnosing Your Water Heater
Throughout your water heater’s life, you may run into issues, especially towards the end of its life. Whether sounds, leaks, or smells, we’ll help you diagnose them.
Hot Water Heater Noises
Your hot water will whistle usually for one of four reasons. These include:
- The TPR Valve (is Working!) A whistling noise isn’t always an alarming thing. When your temperature pressure relief (TPR) valve is working properly and releasing pressure, it will make a whistling noise. You should still look into the cause of excessive pressure in your tank though.
- Loose Drain Valve. A loose drain valve (located at the bottom of the tank) will cause air to escape, hence the whistling noise it makes. This valve will need to be tightened to fix the issue.
- Worn Connections. When the connections that let cold water in and hot water out become worn from general use, you’ll hear whistling from the inlet and outlet.
- Cracked Tank. Cracks can happen inside the tank due to rust and corrosion. When these occur, air will enter or escape the cap, causing the whistling noise.
Homeowners sometimes report banging noises coming from their water heater too. The number one cause of banging noises coming from your water heater is sediment buildup. When hot air bubbles disturb this scale formation at the bottom of your tank, you’ll hear a knocking noise. This noise is the sediment hitting against the walls of your water heater.
This scale is damaging to your water heater. To fix the issue, you will want to flush your hot water heater—or even better, invest in a water softening system to be rid of sediments in your tank for good.
Smells from Hot Water Heater
One smell commonly noticed from the hot water heater is described as a “rotten egg smell.” This smell can come from a few different causes, one of them being the corroded anode rod explained above. When the metal of the anode rod reacts with sulfates in the water, you are left with hydrogen sulfide, a stinky combination. Another cause of the rotten smell is a high level of sulfur-reducing bacteria in the tank’s water that reduce sulfates into the smelly hydrogen sulfide.
This smell can be treated with a water heater flush, new anode rod, and/or a water treatment system to remove sulfur-reducing bacteria, depending on which cause is present.
Leaking Hot Water Heater
If you notice water leaking from your water heater, the first step is to determine where the leak is located, so that you can gauge the severity of the issue and take proper action.
When your hot water heater is leaking from the top, this signifies a less expensive, but still serious problem. A leak sourcing from the top is likely attributed to a leaking valve or hoses due to corrosion or breakdown of parts. Thankfully, all that’s left to do at this point is get the damaged component repaired by a professional or source the leak and repair it on your own. But first—turn off the power and water to the unit!
When your hot water heater is leaking from the bottom, the number one culprit is tank damage due to old age. Leaks from the bottom of the tank are often indicative of a critical problem. Internal deterioration, rust, and cracks from old age aren’t visible on the outside, but water will pool around the tank, signifying internal damage. Note that these leaks are often present as the water heater reaches the end of its life expectancy. You should consider a new hot water heater in these cases.
Before assuming what’s wrong with your water heater when it has a leak, you should get it properly examined and diagnosed. On close inspection, it’s possible too that a leaking drain valve was overlooked or a connection was corroded. For your peace of mind, get a professional opinion from a plumbing expert.
Emergency service, repair, and installation in Rockford, Michigan, and Beyond
Whether it’s leaks, regular maintenance, or a whole new tank you need installed, Blakeslee & Son are your local professionals of choice in West Michigan. We serve Rockford, Ada, Grand Rapids, Cedar Springs, Lowell, Marne, and the surrounding area.
We provide emergency service to our customers every day from 8 AM to 8 PM, with special rates for our Peak Protection Plan members.
Schedule your water heater service online or give us a call at 616-866-1921.