Thursday, October 8th, 2015

Water Heaters – Do You Really Need A New One?

When we purchased our home 20 years ago, it came with a “new-ish” 40-gallon water heater. It’s a good brand and has served our family well. Our best guess is that it’s now over 25 years old. It provides a decent (not great) amount of hot water for 4 adults and 2 teens; we’ve learned to stage our showers so that no one has to take a cold one. In short, we’ve arranged our water usage to accommodate our hot water heater.

When is the right time to invest in new water heater?
Replacing plumbing infrastructure is expensive, mechanical, and intimidating. Water heaters can easily exceed $1,000 dollars or more, installed. Our approach to replacement is likely a common one – we’re waiting for it to break.

Understanding why water heaters fail
So, risk takers that we are, what’s the worst that can happen when our heater fails? Right now, it’s our daily lukewarm shower. Looking ahead, however, there are a three main areas that are likely to be the failure point:

Heavy mineral deposits that, over time, buildup on the heater’s internal components, including the anode rod (see photo to left). When the anode rod becomes covered in mineral deposits, poor cathodic protection results, and that’s trouble. The experts at note that the anode protects the metal tank from the aggressive water heater conditions (a.k.a. corrosive action). The rod (usually made of magnesium) creates a “cathodic” condition in the steel water tank and protects the tank from rusting. If the rod is depleted or removed, the tank won’t have such a protection, and it will eventually corrode.” Periodic visual inspection and replacement is a must.

Poorly sized heaters – where the demand exceeds the tank size – can be identified by heavy condensation and rust. Extensive condensation is the key word here. The condensation is dripping on the burner and other elements, causing rust and ultimately, failure.

Thermal expansion – which takes place when the water temperature inside the system rises and causes the water to expand and increase in volume. If you notice a bulging tank or leaks, thermal expansion may be at work. “Water tank heaters are designed to withstand an internal pressure of up to 300 psi. [At higher pressure] bulging will occur, [deforming] the tank and its elements (such as nipples, flue tube) or rupture of the welds and joints.” In such cases, an expansion tank may be required. Contact a reputable plumber for assistance.

What are the odds that our water heater will flood the basement or utility room?
Recently, Allied Reddi-Rooter was contacted by a homeowner seeking a quote and recommendations on water heaters. The caller had recently replaced one for an elderly relative and was thinking it might be sound thinking to proactively replace her own before it failed and flooded her basement. In the course of conversation, it became clear the heater in question was about 8 years old and in good condition. The homeowner was concerned about preventing a catastrophic failure/basement flood. Ray noted that such failures are commonly discussed by insurance companies but rarely happen. Almost always, homeowners will see a failure coming, either by observing rust and small leaks or by a lack of hot water. Additionally, hot water heaters are usually located in either a basement or utility room that is equipped with a floor drain. In closing the call, Ray suggested the homeowner continue to enjoy her heater for another several years, while remembering to conduct periodic visual inspections as noted above.

Water You Waiting For? If you are curious about replacing or maintaining your water heater, the professionals at Allied Reddi-Rooter are on call to listen to your questions and concerns. Free telephone consultations and quotes are available for the asking. Call 513-396-5300 or Contact us. We’ve been helping Cincinnati homeowners with their plumbing needs for decades and can help with yours, too.  We always come highly recommended and have earned an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau for our expert quality of service.