Similarly to other major appliances, water heaters need regular testing, inspections, and maintenance to continue operating. This is something that you should have done by a licensed plumber at least once per year. Here is an overview of why water heater testing and maintenance are important, as well as how to know when it’s time to schedule this service.
The Importance of Annual Water Heater Inspections and Maintenance
All water heaters have a limited lifespan. Most tank-type units will last for approximately 8 to 15 years at the very most. Gas water heaters generally have a shorter life than electric units, but they are still the most common option as they tend to cost less to operate. It is always important to have your water heater inspected and serviced annually, no matter what type of unit you have.
The lifespan of your water heater could be reduced by a number of years if you don’t keep up with the necessary service. This would force you to replace it far earlier than you’d planned. Maintenance will also help to ensure your water heater remains in good condition. It will be less likely to need major repairs. It is also important for maintaining the energy efficiency of the unit and keeping your gas or electric bills low. Inspecting the unit regularly is also important for helping to prevent major leaks and reducing the risk of severe water damage.
What Does Servicing and Testing a Water Heater Involve?
When servicing your water heater, a plumber will always test various components and safety features to make sure that everything is in good shape and working properly. This is not something you can do on your own, which is why it’s important to schedule a professional inspection and maintenance service every year.
One of the most important parts of maintaining a tank water heater is flushing the unit to remove all of the sediment from the tank. Sediment naturally forms and builds up inside the tank over time. This happens because heating the water causes some of the dissolved minerals in your water supply to solidify into pieces of sediment. Having a lot of sediment inside the tank will greatly reduce the unit’s effectiveness, leading to a variety of issues.
In electric units, sediment will often cause the lower heating element to wear out more quickly. This sediment will also absorb some of the heat that is produced by the heating element, leading to the unit heating more slowly or never getting hot. Sediment buildup is an even bigger issue for gas units. When there is lots of sediment inside the tank, it will essentially insulate the tank and prevent much of the heat from flowing out into the water. This greatly reduces the rate at which the unit heats and will lead to much higher energy costs.
Sediment also increases the chances of the tank springing a leak. As the sediment absorbs heat, it will often start to form hot spots that weaken the steel tank and cause it to corrode more quickly. All of these issues can be avoided by having a plumber drain and flush your water heater every year, or possibly every six months if your home has hard water.
Another thing the plumber will do is check the condition of the water heater’s anode rod. An anode rod is a steel cable coated in a reactive metal such as aluminum, magnesium or zinc, and it works by essentially sacrificing itself to prevent the minerals in the water from reacting with and corroding the steel tank.
Instead, the minerals react and corrode the metal coating on the anode rod. Over time, the coating will be completely eaten away, and the anode rod will stop working. This makes it important to check the condition of the rod annually so it can be replaced as necessary, otherwise the tank will begin to corrode and your water heater will have a shorter lifespan.
The anode rod will typically last for around five years, but hard water will make it corrode more quickly, so you may need to replace it every two or three years instead.
Signs Your Water Heater Needs to Be Inspected and Tested
A lack of hot water is an obvious issue that indicates you need to schedule a water heater inspection. There are also other signs you should watch out for. If your water heater turns on and runs for hours every day, this is cause for concern. The unit should really only run for two or three hours total per day, except in situations where you’re using much more hot water than normal. This is something you can easily check for with a gas water heater, as they will always make some noise when running.
Another sign that can indicate your water heater isn’t working effectively is if it suddenly has a much longer recovery time. Recovery time refers to how long it takes from when you use up all of the stored hot water until the unit reheats. The typical recovery time for a gas unit is around 30 minutes to an hour. An electric unit often takes one to two hours to fully reheat. If your recovery time is much longer than this, it may mean that you need to have the unit flushed or an interior component repaired.
With electric units, long recovery times can also indicate that one of the heating elements is starting to wear out or has failed and needs to be replaced. Prompt attention can bring your house back up to speed in regard to hot water while protecting your hot water tank for years to come.
You should also listen for any loud or unusual noises when your water heater is running. Cracking or popping noises are definitely a sign that the unit has some issues and should be inspected as soon as possible. If you hear knocking or banging sounds when the unit is running, it’s a sign that the unit needs to be flushed, as these sounds usually result from sediment hitting against the sides of the tank.
It’s also important that you monitor your water heater for leaks. If you ever notice water dripping down the side of the unit, immediate attention from a professional is imperative. This can be a safety risk that can lead to water damage in your home if left unaddressed.
Wyman Plumbing & Mechanical is the name to trust if you need any water heater services in the Phoenix area. We repair and service all brands and models of tank and tankless water heaters. We also specialize in water heater inspections and installation. We offer appliance repair, smoke testing and camera inspections of your drains.
Contact us today to learn more about the importance of water heater maintenance or if you need any residential plumbing services for your home.