We don’t think about our water heaters very often, especially when they’re working properly. We certainly take notice when they fail – freezing cold or blazing hot showers, brown water flowing from the tap, strange odors and sounds, leaks that end up producing extensive flooding, structural damage, mold, and mildew.
Water damage repair due to water heater failure in residential heaters typically costs as much as $5,000 and failures in commercial properties can top $500,000 or more!
Keep an Eye on It
Eventually, all water heaters fail. It’s a fact of life. Most water heaters have a lifespan of 5 to 10 years, depending on intensity of use, type of water, and the care and maintenance provided along the way. Age is a definite factor for failure. The Institute for Business and Home Safety reports that the chance for failure rises sharply after five years and that nearly three-quarters of all heaters fail before they are 12 years old. Accumulation of corrosive sediment and corrosion of heating elements and the tank can also create serious problems. Whether it’s a tiny leak that sets off a chain reaction of water damage or a catastrophic failure from a tank bursting, you can reduce the risk of failure by performing proper installation and maintenance, and identifying potential problems before they worsen.
If you don’t feel secure in performing inspections and maintenance steps yourself, contact a professional to do the work for you. • Have the water heater installed by a qualified professional, per the manufacturer’s instructions and county code. • Keep the unit and all its connections free of dirt, rust, corrosion, and soot.
• Flush sediment from the bottom of the tank, per manufacturer’s instructions, every six months. Turn off power supply and water first. • Regularly inspect the unit for dripping water, rust, cracks, hissing, or whistling.
• Check regularly for corrosion or leaks anywhere water flows in and out of the tank, including the bottom drain valve, the anode, the inlet and outlet pipes, and the temperature pressure relief valve.
• At least one time each year, test the temperature pressure relief valve, per manufacturer’s instructions, to make sure it’s working properly. • Watch for shortage of hot water, odd-colored water, or sediment in the water. Additional Ways to Avoid Water Heater Damage • Install a temperature pressure relief valve – to release water if the inside tank pressure or temperature get too high. • Install a water flow sensor – to sound an alarm if water flow during a certain time exceeds normal flow programmed for that time. The sensor will also detect if the water heater has burst and shut off the fresh water supply.
• Install a leak detector – to detect leaks beneath the heater. If the sensor is activated, the shut-off valve closes automatically to stop the water flow.
• Install a catch pan – to contain small leaks under the heater. Connect the pan drain to a sump pump or waste line. If you discover any problems, turn the heater off, disconnect it from the water supply and call a qualified professional.