One of the most expensive and common plumbing repairs that a homeowner can expect is replacing a water heater. In Kentucky, prices range from $800 to $1500 to have a residential water heater replaced by a licensed professional. Modern water heaters tend to last ten to twelve years before they rupture and leak, or become impractical to repair. This is due in part to the fact that many parts of Kentucky have hard water, which causes mineral deposits to build up in the tank, accelerating corrosion.
So, what can a homeowner do to prolong the life of their water heater? One option is to install a water softener, which can be costly if no such system exists in your home. Although softened water is great for your plumbing, I'm going to suggest an even more basic (and free!) approach to getting the most out of your water heater:
Flush your water heater once a year.......every year.
That's right. You can devote about 45 minutes once a year to a simple task that can potentially save you thousands. All you need is a garden hose, and a plumber who is willing to explain the process......I happen to know a good one if you're interested. By removing sediment build up annually, a water heater will take much longer to rust out and leak.
Above is a standard water heater diagram. Follow the steps below to flush your water heater.
1. Determine whether your heater is gas or electric.
2. Turn off the power to an electric water heater before flushing. On a gas water heater, turn the temperature control to "pilot."
(These steps ensure that the water heater will not attempt to heat while it is empty, which could damage the unit.)
3. Attach a hose to the drain valve of the heater (shown above) and run the hose to a suitable termination point (outside, or to a floor drain usually works best).
4. Open the drain valve at this point, and allow water to run through the hose for 30 seconds or so.
(This should push out any sediment that is clogging the drain valve.)
5. While water is running through the hose, locate the shut off valve over the water heater and turn off the water coming into the heater.
(Every water heater is required by the state plumbing code to have a shut off valve installed on the cold/inlet side. If you don't have a way to shut the water off to your heater, call for Backup at 502-777-0058).
6. Once the water is turned off to the heater, go through your house and open each faucet to the hot side- this allows the heater to drain more quickly.
7. Check the end of your hose occasionally to ensure that water is still flowing out of the tank.
(The amount of time it takes the heater to empty will depend on the capacity of the heater, how many faucets you open, and how much sediment was in the tank before you flushed it.)
8. When the heater is empty, turn the valve back on and allow water to enter the tank. Watch the end of your hose- if the water is coming out clear (not rusty or filled with sediment), close the drain valve.
9. When the heater is full, turn your faucets off after all air is purged from the lines.
10. Turn the power back on to an electric heater, or turn the temperature control back to its original setting on a gas water heater.
Now go count your money and wait for the heater to return to its normal temperature.
If you can't flush your own water heater or don't have time, Backup Plumbing includes a water heater flush as part our standard service agreement.