Why Do Water Heaters Fail?

plumber fixing hot water heater

Have you checked on your water heater recently? If you’re like most homeowners, chances are you haven’t. In fact, most people don’t think about their water heater until it breaks.

Hot water heaters have an average lifespan of ten years. That being said, regular maintenance is needed to keep your water heater running for the whole decade. Certain factors like malfunctioning parts, size, and even geographic location can cause your water heater to fail prematurely. Luckily for you, Empire State Pluming has compiled a list of the top reasons why water heaters fail and the preemptive measures you can take to lengthen the life of your water heater:

Inspect Your Water Heater Regularly

When’s the last time you inspected your water heater and checked for any signs of damage? “Many people put the water heater in their basement and never look at it again,” says Tom Darling of Empire State Plumbing, the Albany area’s leading experts on hot water tank installation and repair. “Failure to regularly check your water heater is one of the top reasons why they fail.”

Darling suggests homeowners to complete a quick visual inspection of their water heater once a week supplemented by an annual inspection by a plumber. How do you know if something’s wrong? Tom Darling advises you to use your common sense: “If you look at it and you see something that doesn’t look right, then you need to question it and call a plumber.” If there are leaks, rust, or malfunctioning controls (like a thermostat), call an expert like Empire State Plumbing to come take a look.

Do You Have Hard Water?

If you live in an area with a hard water supply, like Albany and Upstate New York, your water may be significantly impacting your water heater. Areas with hard water have water abundant with minerals like calcium, magnesium, and iron.

As water is heated, these minerals crystallize and settle to the bottom of your hot water heater. Over time, this sediment builds up and slows down your water heater. “As you get a layer of mineral on the bottom of the water heater, it reduces the efficiency of the water heater because it takes a lot longer to heat,” says Tom Darling. “As it takes longer to heat, there’s more flame for a longer period of time on the bottom of the water heater, so that prematurely wears out the steel on the bottom of the water heater.”

Concerned hard water is wearing out your hot water heater? Install a water softening system. This will use a process called ion exchange to remove these harmful minerals that cause sedimentation.

Replace Your Anode Rod

The anode rod is a critical component on the inside of your water heater that prevents it from rusting prematurely. The problem is that most anode rods have life expectancies shorter than their water heaters.

If you have a water heater more than 5 years old, chances are it’s time you get your anode rods replaced. Your plumber will check your anode rod as part of your annual inspection. This will insure that your water heater remains rust-free for years to come.

Thermal Expansion—Is Your Water Heater Under Pressure?

When water is heated by your hot water heater, it expands in volume. This is known as thermal expansion. The pressure from this volume expansion can severely impact the life expectancy of your water heater if it has nowhere to go.

Typically, cities have an open system, meaning the pressure from the expanded water can be absorbed by the city water supply. However, if you don’t have an open water system, or if you have a built-in check valve in your house that prevents expansion to the city water, the extra pressure builds up in your tank causing internal problems and leakage.

If this is the case, a thermal expansion tank may be the best route for you. Installing a thermal expansion tank can prevent the risk of pressure damage by giving the pressure another area to go. This will provide your water heater the much needed relief it needs.

Your Water Heater is Too Small

“Don’t overwork your water heater,” advises Tom Darling. “An undersized water heater has a low life expectancy.”

The reason why is quite simple: if your water heater is too small for your household, the burner will be constantly running to keep up with the demand for hot water. Overuse overheats the bottom of your hot water heater and causes condensation through the exhaust. This condensation drips down and wears out the life of your burner.

If this is the case, invest in a larger water heater that can adequately support your household’s hot water needs. If you find your hot water heater is constantly in use, it may be time for an upgrade.

 

***Is your water heater leaking and ready to fail? Contact Empire State Plumbing online today or call us at (518) 213-9256 for a comprehensive consultation. We are the hot water heater experts in the Albany and Saratoga areas!