Water heaters are extremely important appliances that you and your home depend on every day. However, they’re more prone to failure than many of your other appliances and thus need replacement more often in order to keep your home running smoothly. A failed water heater can come in many different forms, however a leaking tank and a complete lack of hot water are the two most common. While most people can tell when their water heater has failed, few actually know why their tank can fail and thus what they can do to avoid the issue.
Here are five of the most common reasons for water heater failure, including some signs that your tank may be on the fritz as well as what you can do to avoid the issue and preserve your tank for the future.
Excessive Corrosion in the Tank
Corrosion is a huge problem with just about any water heater. As the metal that forms your water heater tank is exposed to the oxygen in your water over time, the metal is eaten away, rusts, and becomes brittle and thin. When the tank becomes too thin, the weight of the water inside it causes it to crack and form leaks. Leaks usually start out as an immensely slow drip that you more than likely won’t notice, but if left unrepaired too long the issue will grow until you find yourself facing a catastrophic plumbing emergency.
Unfortunately, there’s almost no way to avoid this issue—water will eventually cause your tank to corrode and leak, resulting in the need for a total replacement. However, regularly flushing your water heater and maintaining good-quality water can help prevent this issue from cropping up too early.
Faulty or Dying Heating Elements
If you’ve ever turned on your shower to find that all of the hot water in your home has already been used up, you know how frustrating life can be. However, what would happen if you turned on your shower and there was never any hot water? If your heating element fails, this is exactly what will happen.
A dying heating element can generally be avoided with proper maintenance. Having your water heater professionally inspected as a part of an annual plumbing maintenance service can help you keep your water heater working smoothly for as long as possible. Likewise, flushing your water heater at least twice per year helps prevent sediment and debris from building up in your tank and preventing your heating element from properly warming the water as you need it. Also, make sure you set your water temperature to a reasonable level; setting it too high causes excessive strain on the system and results in faster wear and tear.
Too Much Pressure in the Tank
As water heats, any oxygen in the water heater tank expands. When the oxygen expands, it puts pressure on the walls of your tank. While your tank is built to handle a small amount of pressure, larger amounts can cause everything from leaks and cracks to (extremely rare) tank bursting and potentially even explosions. This is one of the inherent flaws of tank-style heaters—pressure in your tank is unavoidable, and while you have a pressure relief valve designed to open when pressure exceeds rated values, these valves can wear out and fail themselves, resulting in a dangerous tank.
The two best ways to prevent this are simple: regularly open your pressure relief valve, and make sure you have a working expansion tank installed. Your pressure relief valve is generally installed near the top of your tank where the air and oxygen are commonly found. Opening this valve allows pressure to release and keeps your tank safe. However, wear protective clothing and eye protection when you do this—hot water or mist could spray out and cause injury. Likewise, having an appropriate expansion tank on your water heater allows it to handle this added expansion without the risk to your tank.
Got a water heater problem? Need a new tank installed? Turn to the pros from J.C. Enriquez Plumbing & Remodeling and we’ll make sure you get exactly what you need. Dial (210)679-6020 today to request an estimate or schedule your service appointment.