When was the last time you thought about your water heater? Unless you had to take an unexpected cold shower, you probably don’t think about it too often. And yet, unlike your heating equipment or your air conditioner, it’s the one system you use every single day. With bathing, dishwashing, and laundry, the typical household uses about 65 gallons of hot water a day. Your water heater works hard for you—and in winter, it needs to work harder—mainly because the air and water is colder.
The good news is that no matter whether you have a tank style or a tankless unit, water heaters are fairly low maintenance. But with a little routine care, your water heater can last longer and perform better—and more efficiently through the winter and beyond. Here’s what you need to know:
If you have a tank-style water heater, corrosion is one of the main culprits that can cause your water heater tank to rust, develop leaks, and eventually fail. Inspect the exterior of the tank for signs of corrosion such as rust or puddles under or around the tank. Rusty water from the tap is another sign that your tank is corroding and will need to be replaced.
You should also check your anode rod. While it’s possible to do this yourself, our techs will do it as part of our regular maintenance check, and they’ll replace it if necessary.
But what’s an anode rod? The anode rod prevents internal corrosion. It’s a steel wire surrounded with aluminum, magnesium or zinc that mounts inside your water heater tank and attracts corrosive elements to itself rather than the tank lining. As long as the rod remains intact, your water heater tank is be protected from rusting. Eventually, however, the anode rod will degrade to the point that it will no longer protect your tank.
Typically, they last at least a few years, but it can depend on factors such as your water’s acidity and how much water you use. Using a water softener can shorten the lifespan of your anode rod by half.
If you’ve made the switch to tankless water heating, you don’t need to worry about an anode rod. But to ensure longevity and keep your unit operating well, you need to flush the system once a year—although if you have very hard water, you may need to do it twice a year. The good news is that it’s easy to do.
The point is to remove scale buildup in the system. Scale can accumulate more quickly in tankless water heaters and it will eventually affect performance if left unchecked. Some units (like those from Rinnai) will even remind you when it’s time to perform maintenance!
Most systems have flush kits installed that make it easy for you to run a vinegar solution through the unit in a loop. It’s not hard to do yourself, if you feel handy, and manufacturers provide instructions, or you can have our pros perform the task for you.
Most water heaters have a default setting of 140° but that’s not only dangerous, it’s also inefficient. Reducing the temperature setting to 120° will meet all your hot water needs—and it can lower heating costs by as much as 10%. When you consider that heating water accounts for close to 20% of your heating costs, you may want to talk to us about upgrading your water heater to a high-efficiency model that can help you save even more.
Whether you’d like us to check your equipment or you’d like to talk to us about a new water heater for your Hudson Valley home, our pros are ready to answer all your questions. Contact us today.