No matter how old the hot water heater is, no matter how carefully we avoid periodically draining the tank to prevent mineral sediment, it always comes as a bit of a shock when we turn on the shower and the hot water comes out… cold. Eventually, a hot water heater will have to be repaired or replaced. It's better if 'eventually' takes a long time to arrive.
If your tank is over ten years old, it’s a fair certainty that time is short. On the off chance that you have recently moved into the home and don’t know the age of the tank, it’s worth your while to find out, since many hot water heater tanks come with an extensive warranty.
The serial number label info
Hot water heater labels are a wealth of information, including how much hot water the unit will cost you fiscally, etc. The serial number has a code hidden within it; a code which tells the date of the hot water heater’s manufacture. It may require a visit to the manufacturer’s website to decipher the date, but could be worthwhile if the tank isn’t out of warranty yet.
There are three things which age a hot water heater tank. The first is pressure. In a previous blog, we mention the hot water expansion tank, a creative, yet simple way for hot water to expand and contract in the tank without causing damage to your hot water heater or pipes. This is now in the building code in most areas, since backflow prevention devices have made it impossible for hot water from the tank to back up into the municipal water supply.
Mineral sediment is another cause of hot water tank failure since it will compromise the heating element. Sediment can be minimized by draining the tank completely about once a year. Some tank manuals call for the siphoning off of one gallon, but this has to be done every month.
High heat is also hard on the hot water heater. Since heating is its job, you wouldn’t think that would be the case, but it is. This becomes obvious when the liner cracks and the water bleeds into the steel tank. This quickly rusts, which means the hot water can come out rust-colored.
Sometimes hot water heaters show us when they’re at the end of their life. If they leak, that’s an obvious sign that they’re done providing us with endless buckets of hot water. But, if the water develops a funny taste or smell, this could also mean the tank is nearing the end of its life. In some cases, the water may not be as hot as it once was, or the recovery period might be greater than it was before. If the unit begins to make banging noises, this is also a symptom of ultimate demise.
When the time comes to replace the tank, an assessment of its performance is in order before replacing it with a new one. Whether the tank is gas or electric, the friendly, licensed and bonded local plumber can replace it.