With a lifespan of 10-15 years, it’s easy to forget your water heater needs maintenance, like your septic system. Have you noticed it isn’t quite as efficient lately? Or maybe it’s producing rusty water. Here are some signs your water heater needs replacing, and not repairing.
Water Heater Maintenance
Want to keep your water heater working like new for as long as possible? Here are a few tank maintenance tips.
Drain Twice a Year
Completely draining the tank twice a year flushes out sediments that have accumulated from the water supply. This process prevents sediments from hardening and damaging the tank. In addition, it gives your tank an efficient boast with the purer water now being heated and distributed.
While draining the water, after it has cooled give it a taste. If it tastes metallic that is an indication it could be failing.
Check the Pressure-Relief Valve
Check your pressure-relief valve by lifting and letting the handle snap back. If the tank shoots out a burst of water, all is well. If not, replace the valve.
Lower the Temperature
Reduce your tank temperature to around 120 degrees.
Lower temperatures reduce the stress caused by overheating. As your tank ages, you may find yourself bumping the temperature back up towards the end of the water heater’s life.
The good news—some minor issues are repairable for a nominal fee compared to replacement prices.
While this may be a larger underlying issue, it could also be a power or gas issue instead.
Electric Water Heaters
- Check that the power is connected and not short-circuited.
- Restart the thermostat or increase the tank temperature. If no other signs of damage are present, you may look into replacing the thermostat.
- Insulate the hot water pipes. Especially in cold climates during the winter months. Water could be losing its heat before reaching its destination.
- Check that the gas is connected and the tank is full. Relight pilot light if it’s out.
- Clean the gas burner and thermocouple. The thermocouple is responsible for turning off the gas if the pilot light goes out. If it’s clogged or dirty, it could be misreading the situation.
- Insulate the hot water pipes.
- Raise the temperature.
Hissing or Sizzling
Sediment is building up. While it may not have hardened yet, it’s close. Drain the tank immediately.
Parts looking a little worse for wear? Soak them in a white vinegar bath to remove sediment.
Leaking Valves or Pipes
Notice water coming from the valves and pipes? First, check all the connections to verify they are secure. After that, it’s time to buy replacement parts.
These issues are not minor and are signs your water heater needs replacing.
If your tank is over ten years old, it probably needs to be replaced. While it may not have any outward signs, it’s no longer as efficient and is costing you money.
Not sure of your tank’s age? Check the serial number. The letter in the first slot indicates the month, with its order in the alphabet. The numbers in the second and third slot indicate the year. For example, a serial number starting with D08 means your tank was installed in April 2008 (D is the fourth letter of the alphabet).
Is your water the color of rust? You most likely have a water heater issue. The other cause could be galvanized pipes.
To prove it’s the water heater, drain a few buckets of water from the tank directly. If a couple of buckets in the water is still rust-colored, it means the inside of your tank is corroding.
Rattling and Banging
Bad news, the sediment has hardened. Whether from old age or poor maintenance, the time has come. These hardened pieces are like stones throttling around the inside of the tank—and it’s a leak waiting to happen. Replace before your tank starts spewing water.
Notice a puddle of water? And it isn’t the valves or pipes? You have a crack in your tank.
Check it while the tank is hot, as metal expands and allows a larger area for water to spurt out. Replace before flooding the surrounding area.
Water Heaters and Your Septic System
When a water heater is working efficiently and in great shape, your septic system isn’t thinking twice about it. That changes when it begins to fail.
The water tank begins to take longer to heat water, which means you are running the water in your sinks and showers for longer before ever getting in. This means more water for your septic system.
And the sediment? That’s also making its way into your septic system, giving the bacteria and tank more debris to sift through before pushing the treated waste into the drainfield.
Water heaters don’t last forever. It’s important to perform regular maintenance on your water heater and replace when needed.