One of the modern conveniences many people take for granted is hot water in their home or business. A simple turn of the tap provides for a warm bath, shower or hot water for washing dishes and clothes. Millions of water heaters are sold in the United States each year to replace broken units, upgrade to more energy efficient models or for use in new construction. These water heaters typically have lifespan of between 8 to 15 years, but this can vary.
For many people, as long as there is hot water at the tap, they don’t think much about water heater maintenance, preventive care or energy efficiency. However, water heaters do have a finite life span and many older models consume large amounts of energy. In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, water heating is the second largest energy use in homes, accounting for 17% of residential energy consumption.
Unfortunately, when a water heater does fail, it often means more than just cold water. A leaking water heater can release large amounts of water into a home or building which is why it is so important to have a catch pan with a functioning drain below the unit. Water not diverted by a catch pan can cause extensive water damage, including the destruction of building materials, furnishing and belongings. This moisture often results in the growth of mold on wet materials causing even more expensive repairs and potential indoor air quality and health issues.
To prolong the life of a water heater, sacrificial anodes are located in many models to help protect it from internal corrosion. Over time, these may need to be replaced according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. The Home Depot also recommends that hot water heaters are flushed once per year to help remove sediment or rust that may have built up in the unit.
American Family Insurance provides the following tips that a water heater likely needs to be serviced or replaced soon.
• Water takes longer to heat or doesn’t get as hot as it used to.
• The unit makes cracking or popping sounds when heating water.
• Hot water has a metallic taste or visible rust comes from the faucet.
• Rust is forming on the outside of the heater.
• There is leaking water below the heater.
• The burner units are rusty or clogged.