Water heaters are a home appliance that doesn’t receive much attention throughout the course of a year. If hot water is being delivered, people are happy with the result; however, a domestic hot water system requires regular maintenance if you want to save money and get quality heat production.

Gas water heaters typically last between 8 to 12 years with proper maintenance. Electric water heaters can last about 10 to 15 years when they are properly maintained. The life expectancy of the water heater depends a great deal on the volume of water used. Using large quantities of water means that the water heater will have to work harder to provide heat. In addition, the greater the volume of water, the greater the corrosive effect the water will have.

According to HomeAdvisor, the average cost to replace a 40 gal. water heater tank is about $1200, and repairs can cost between $45-$150 per hour (and emergency repairs can cost double or even triple that amount). There is no doubt that prolonging your water heaters life makes sense, but proper maintenance is required to keep your water heater running in peak operating conditions.

Install a Water Softener

As with most household systems and components, you get what you pay for in a water heater. Cheaper models will generally have a shorter lifespan, while more expensive models will generally last longer. A good indication of a water heater’s construction quality is its warranty.  Longer warranties naturally imply sounder construction, and models with larger heating elements have a much better resistance to mineral buildup or scum. If you live in an area where the mineral content is high in the water systems, then installing a water softener might help expand the lifespan of your water heater. When an area has high mineral content in the water, it’s known as hard water. Hard water is a culprit in cutting back the lifespan of water heaters. This is because the mineral content leaves deposits in the water heater, which causes them to have problems much sooner than expected. Installing a water softener helps reduce the risk of mineral content build up in your system.

Add an Expansion Tank

Adding an expansion tank to your water heater can greatly improve its lifespan. This is especially true with water heaters that have closed systems. These closed systems don’t allow for backflow into the water main. Because of this, when the water expands, there is nowhere for it to go. The constant changes in pressure put your water heater through much stress, which eventually wears it down. Adding an expansion tank allows for the water to now have an outlet, which means less stress on the system.

Drain the Water Heater

Another step you can take is to drain your tank. How often you need to do this depends upon the sediment buildup you are getting in your tank. Some experts recommend draining once a year; I recommend draining your tank at least once and checking for sediment buildup. Check it six months or a year later and compare the amount of buildup to your previous amount. This will give you an idea of how often you need to drain your tank. If you have more sediment, you will want to drain more often. Come up with a good schedule that will keep your sediment buildup to a minimum.

As always, water heaters should be maintained according to manufacturer recommendations to ensure proper water heater performance, prolonged useful life, and warranty coverage. If water heaters are not maintained, the useful life of the unit can be shortened, and certain failures may not be covered under the warranty. Premature costs will be incurred, so it is very important to routinely check your water heater. Water heaters are regulated under California’s Title 20 Appliance Efficiency Regulations, Section 1605.1(f). These regulations align with the federal efficiency standards for water heaters.

For more information on how to comply with energy standards for your project and make the most out of your property’s energy-consuming systems, please contact Moe Fakih at VCA Green below.

Contributing Writer: Samuel Vallejo, HERS Rater

Moe Fakih, Principal