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What’s Killing Your Hot Water Heater And What You Can Do To Stop It

Your hot water heater is incredibly important, after all, trying to start your day with cold showers is something most people could not stomach. But, despite its importance, a lot of people do not put check their water heater periodically. Hot water heaters are fairly durable and do not malfunction easily, but there are few things that can seriously damage a hot water heater. So, in this article I will go over some of the more common problems that can affect your hot water heater; I will also go over some basic maintenance tips that will help you extend the lifespan of your hot water heater.

Common problems that can affect your hot water heater

Rusting anode rod

An anode rod is a rod, usually made of aluminum or magnesium, which is attached at the top of the hot water heater. It prevents the water in the tank from corroding the steel that the tank is made out of, thus allowing a steel tank to last for 8-10 (standard lifespan of a commercial hot water heater) years without rusting. Anode rods rust and degrade naturally over time; meaning they will need to be replaced eventually. This is not something you need to check every month, or even every year. An anode rod can last for around 5 years, so you obviously will not need to check up on it often. But, having a depleted anode rod can severely damage the lifespan of your hot water heater; a rusting hot water heater is ruined beyond repair, so it is crucial that if you have a depleted anode rod, you replace it before your water tank starts rusting.


Sediment is a naturally occurring material that resembles sand. It builds up naturally in hot water heaters over time. Sediment causes numerous issues for hot water heaters. First off, the sediment can create an insulation effect, slowing the transfer of heat to the water. This means it will take longer for the water in your tank to be heated. Secondly, too much sediment can cause the bottom of the tank to heat up, which weakens the steel and glass lining, increasing the chance that the water tank will fail completely. Sediment can cause water tanks to make very loud banging noises when in use. Finally, sediment can clog the drainage valve of the water tank, preventing you from completely draining your water tank (a crucial aspect of water tank maintenance).


In order for a hot water heater to function, it needs to draw in air to allow for combustion, which is necessary to heat the water. Now this might not occur to most people, but, if for some reason you have cleaning materials near the hot water heater, say bleach or ammonia, then remove them right away. Cleaning materials that contain heavy amounts of bleach or ammonia can let off fumes, which are then sucked up by the hot water heater. The corrosive fumes can do some damage to the hot water heater, it is not major damage, but combined with other factors, the fumes can speed up the rate at which your hot water heater corrodes.

Excessive water pressure

Excessive water pressure is a common issue in plumbing. For example, high water pressure can cause damage to pipes, as well as causing pipes to be noisy. So, it should not be surprising that excessively high water pressure can kill your water heater as well. The ideal pressure for water, is anywhere between 60-80 Psi. Anything over 80 Psi can start to cause damage to hot water heaters, piping, or even appliances.

Excessive workload

If you have a small capacity hot water heater, then excessively using hot water may cause the hot water heater to die earlier than it normally should. Hot water heaters expand and contract when they heat up water; if you have a small tank, then an excessive amount of use will cause the tank to expand and contract more often because more and more water needs to be heated. A heater that is constantly expanding and contracting constantly will die very quickly. By doing research, you should be able to very easy to calculate the exact size tank you will need to meet your needs; so if your last hot water heater died due to an excessive workload, make sure you get a hot water heater with a bigger tank next time around.


Now that we have covered some of the main causes behind hot water heater failure, let’s cover some maintenance tips that will help extend the life of your hot water heater.

Drain the hot water heater

Every hot water heater has a drainage valve. So, make sure that at least once a year, you drain the hot water heater. This gets rid of sediment and anything other debris. Ideally, when you drain the water out of the tank, you want the water to be relatively clear, if the water is very dirty then you have a problem on your hands and should call a plumber ASAP.

Make sure your temperature and pressure relief valve is working

The temperature and pressure relief is designed to stop the hot water heater from becoming over pressurized and from overheating. Make sure this valve is not broken, and make you check this valve regularly. Trust me, you do not want to see a water tank rupture, it will cost you tens of thousands of dollars in damage. So, make a habit of checking the valve. It takes one minute and can save you a lot of money and heartache.

Inspect for leaks

Leaking is a sure sign that there is a major issue with your hot water heater, and I do not just mean big leaks either. Just because you do not see a big puddle does not mean your hot water heater is not leaking. Inspect the entire heater and look for out of place moisture, especially around valves, screws, etc. Even a little bit of dampness in the wrong areas is worth checking out. Also, make sure your drainage valve is closed as tightly as possible at all times.

Inspect the hot water heater regularly

Do a thorough inspection of your hot water system every month or so. Sit down and make a reminder if you need to. The biggest killer of hot water heaters is neglect. People simply forget about checking up on their hot water heaters. Do regular checkups on your hot water system and you should be able to catch any problems before they cost you thousands of dollars in damages.