No water heater will last forever, but most units can have long, useful lives with a little help. Prolong the life of your water heater and get the most out of your investment by taking the following steps.
Try a Water Softener
Depending on your location, the water itself could shorten the lifespan of your water heater. If you live in an area where the water naturally has high levels of mineral deposits, over time the minerals will accumulate inside the tank. This phenomenon, known as scaling, can greatly shorten the lifespan of a water heater. That means it's in your best interest to eliminate the minerals before they have the chance to ruin the unit. Install a water softener to reduce scaling as well as decrease overall wear and tear on the plumbing.
Flush the Tank
Over time, sediment builds up inside water heater tanks and reduces their efficiency. If enough time passes, the sediment can turn into a permanent layer in the tank and cause the unit to overheat or break down completely. To prevent damage and extend the life of an older water heater, flush the tank at least once a year. Though many newer models don't require flushing, most older ones do. If you're concerned about flushing the water heater yourself, call a contractor for professional help.
Add Another Anode Rod
Water heaters can typically withstand serious temperature fluctuations and constant exposure to water. Corrosion inside the water tank, however, can signal the end of a water heater's life. Most units have an aluminum or magnesium anode rod that helps limit internal corrosion. Give your water heater a boost and add a second anode rod to increase its ability to resist corrosion.
Install an Expansion Tank
When your water heater produces hot water, the thermal energy causes the fluid to expand in size. If your water heater operates on a closed system, which means water cannot return back through the water main, the heated water has nowhere to go but out. That often translates to increases and inconsistencies in water pressure. Over the years, this causes undue wear and tear on the water heater and the plumbing system as a whole.
If your system endures frequent changes in water pressure, consider installing an expansion tank. This unit stores the extra hot water to keep the system running fluidly, and it can increase the overall life of your water heater by as much as double.
Test the Pressure Relief Valve
Water heaters rely on the pressure relief valve to release pressure automatically when necessary. Because high pressure can cause the unit to explode, having a functioning valve is critical to prolonging the life of your water heater.
Once a year, test the pressure relief valve, which you'll generally find on top or on the side of the unit. Replace the valve if it malfunctions or shows signs of a leak, since you'll want to be sure it works properly when you really need it.
Extending the life of your water heater goes far beyond just performing regular maintenance. Follow these steps to help your unit live for as long as possible.