Water heaters have lifespans of 8 to 12 years, but they can fail sooner or become less efficient without proper maintenance. Water heater manufacturers suggest flushing your water heater every year to get rid of sediment build up inside of it. The water in your tank can bring in minerals that solidify on the bottom and sides of your water heater and, unless flushed out, can cause your water heater to fail. Flushing not only can decrease the amount of money you spend on heating water, but will keep your tank running longer.
Why Flush Your Water Heater?
A water heater brings cold water into your home and heats it with a gas burner or electric element. When that cold water is initially brought into the tank, it often contains sediment that settles on the bottom or sides of the tank.
Learn more about how a water heater works here with our animated graphics.
As this sediment builds up it can slow the heat transfer between the burner or electric heating element and the water. It can also break off and lodge itself into the heat-out or dip tube, causing blockages. Flushing your water heater annually can remove this sediment and slow this process down significantly.
Flushing Your Water Heater Can Improve its Efficiency
A build-up of sediment can create a barrier between the heating element in the tank and the water it needs to be heating. A water heater will work harder to heat the water through a thick layer of sediment because the sediment will act as an insulator, keeping the heat in instead of transferring it to the water. The thicker the sediment becomes, the harder the water heater has to work and the more money it costs you to heat the water in your home.
Imagine trying to boil water on a stove using two pans. You have one pan that just has water in it, but in the second pan, you pour a layer of concrete and then top it off with water. Which one will boil the water faster? The pan without the layer of concrete, naturally, because metal transfers heat faster than sand, concrete, or other minerals.
Flushing Your Water Heater Can Increase its Life Expectancy
The more sediment build up the water heater has in the tank, the harder the water heater has to work to heat your water. This can cause parts of the heater to burn out quickly, reducing your water heater's life expectancy. Sediment can also break off and cause blockages within the tank. Sediment will cause the tank to eventually crack and leak because (particularly in gas heaters) sediment build up can cause hot spots in the tank that will warp and ruin the steel.
It's estimated that water heaters that deal with hard water already have a decreased life expectancy by two or more years, and by not properly maintaining the tank, you can expect it to last for even less.
How to Tell if Your Water Heater Has Sediment Build-Up
1. Popping or rumbling from your water heater tank.
This is water that has become trapped within the sediment and turns into steam. The sediment can also move around in the tank, causing rumbling noises.
2. A drop in water temperature or pressure
Sediment could be preventing the water from heating as much as it used to or it could be blocking the pipes in your home.
Water Heater Sediment and Home Warranties
Landmark Home Warranty does include failure of water heaters from sediment in their home warranty protection plans. There are stipulations to this coverage that are covered in the home warranty contract, so it's always best to flush the sediment out of your tank to protect it and save you money in the long run.
Ready to flush your water heater? See our step-by-step directions in our next post: How to Flush your Water Heater.