Plumbing Tips from an Avid DIY-er

Four Things That Can Go Wrong With Your Water Heater When You Don't Maintain It

You know you have to maintain your furnace and your central air conditioner (if applicable). Yet, not many people know that they have to maintain their water heaters! Water heaters are generally taken for granted. Most first-time as well as long-time homeowners generally leave their water heaters untouched until the water heaters break down or refuse to function at all.

Since the average lifespan of a really good tank water heater is about a decade, even people who know they should provide water heater services for their water heaters rarely do so. The idea is to just let the water heater run its course, and it dies when it dies. Okay, but there are four things that can go very wrong with a water heater when you do not maintain it. 

You Will Never Know That You Have Hard Water

When a water heater is well-maintained, your plumber lets you know that you have hard water. He or she also will tell you just how "hard" your water is. The plumber can pick up on the fact that you have a lot of lime and/or calcium in your water, both which tend to clog pipes and ports and wreak havoc on your water heater.

Finding out sooner rather than later that you have hard water not only allows you to address this problem for the health and functionality of the water heater, but also for the rest of your appliances that rely on water to work. Maintaining your water heater alerts you to the fact that your other appliances are in equal danger of deterioration from the hard water. Then you can have your plumber install a water softener, which will lengthen the life of all of your water-dependent appliances.

Sediment in the Bottom of the Tank

Inside your tank water heater there is an anode rod. The rod collects and processes corrosive particles, which would otherwise destroy your water heater. When your water heater is maintained, your plumber can tell you if this rod is rusting through or breaking down faster than you expected.

For the plumber, he/she can tell by the amount of sediment collecting in the bottom of the tank, which is expressed when the plumber opens the bottom valve for an annual draining. If that is the case, your water heater will need to be replaced much sooner than later, since neither the rod nor the sediment can be fully removed from your tank.

Gas Leaks

If you have a gas-fueled water heater, your water heater could develop a gas leak. This is an extremely serious problem because A) it could have been caught during routine maintenance and prevented, and B) most water heaters are in places where air circulation does not exist (e.g., a basement). Hence, your basement gets flooded with gas, and a lit match would cause an explosion.

Pilot Light Problems

Some water heaters have pilot lights. The problem with pilot lights is that the slightest draft can blow them out. If you do not know how to relight it, you will end up with icy cold water and possibly a gas or propane leak too.

If you do know how to relight the pilot light, but the darn thing will not stay on, clearly something is wrong internally, such as a problem with the ignition switch. Such problems would have been caught had the appliance been properly and regularly maintained. Then the repairs would not have cost you so much because the plumber is right there, in the process of examining your water heater, and able to make the repairs right away.

For more information about water heater services, contact a professional at companies like Mr. Plumber.