How long can you expect the water heater in your home to last? The average lifespan for storage tank water heaters is around 20 years, although with the best possible care, they can last longer.
The biggest threat that can bring a water heater’s service life to an early end is corrosion. Corrosion is the enemy of any metal in contact with water, but a water heater is designed to resist corrosion for many years. We’re going to look at what corrosion can do to your water heater, how to prevent it, and what to do if it starts.
Why Corrosion Is Bad News
The word corrosion comes from the Latin word meaning “to gnaw.” This is because corrosion gnaws away at metal. The chemical reaction of metal, water, and oxygen that creates corrosion eats away at the metal and weakens it. When corrosion starts to take hold on the tank of a water heater, it will soon create leaking. If it forms on the heat exchanger or the burners, it will restrict energy efficiency. Because corrosion spreads, it will continue to weaken a water heater until it can no longer function at all.
Fortunately, water heaters are designed to keep corrosion away for as long as possible. Tanks are designed to keep oxygen out and stop the chemical reaction creating corrosion, and are lined with glass. The tank is also equipped with a sacrificial anode rod. This is a rod of two different metals that runs down through the center of the tank. The two different metals create a reaction inside the tank that causes the rod to corrode rather than the rest of the water heater—i.e. the rod “sacrifices” itself to prevent the corrosion.
However, a water heater must have regular maintenance to help it maintain its defenses against corrosion. The anode rod needs to be changed when it finally corrodes all the way through, and maintenance also takes care of jobs such as flushing the tank and checking on the expansion tank (a component that regulates pressure without letting oxygen into the tank). We advise you schedule professional maintenance once a year for your water heater.
When Corrosion Starts
You may have heard that once a water heater begins corroding, the water heater must be replaced. This isn’t 100% accurate, although it’s close. When you notice corrosion appearing on the tank itself, or you see signs of rusty discoloration in the hot water from your taps, the damage is probably extensive enough that the best route is to replace the water heater. If the system is already more than 20 years old, this is a sign that the system has aged past its usefulness.
If you see corrosion appearing in the heat exchanger or burners of the water heater, you may be able to save the system with professional water heater repair in Orange County, CA. You’ll want to call professionals to check out the water heater no matter what, since they can provide you with answers about the best route forward: repairing or replacing. If it’s time for a replacement, the professionals can help you find the best new unit to meet your household hot water needs.