4 Tips to Keep that Old Water Heater Working

Shannon Lee

You might expect a much older home to come with equally aged water pipes, but what about the hot water heater? How long your hot water heater lasts depends on both the quality of the water heater and the quality of the water flowing through it. Some last as little as seven years, while others might last for up to 20 and still be going strong.

Water Heater Maintenance

You can ensure the longest possible life of your water heater by tending to routine maintenance. Take the following steps once a year to keep your water heater running at top efficiency:

  • Check the anode rod. The anode rod prevents water from corroding the inside of your tank. The rod should be about 3/4 of an inch thick. If it is thinner than that or covered with calcium deposits, it's time to replace the rod.
  • Check the temperature. Set your temperature to 120 degrees for optimum efficiency and water savings. It's also the safest setting for household use, especially if you have young children who can turn on the taps!
  • Check the TPR valve. The temperature pressure release (TPR) valve, prevents the water pressure in the tank from rising too high. Opening the valve should release a bit of water, but if the water keeps flowing, it's time to replace the part.
  • Get the sediment out. Drain the water from the tank, then stir up the sediment at the bottom by turning on the cold water valve. Drain the water again, and repeat the process until the water runs clear. Close it up, refill the tank, and you're good to go for another year.

Wrapping Up the Maintenance

If you're lucky, your water heater and surrounding pipes are well-insulated. If you're not so fortunate, do that job yourself as soon as you get the chance. Insulate the pipes with 3/4 inch foam insulation and use fiberglass pipe wrap for pipes less than six inches away from the flue.

Insulate the water heater itself with an insulating blanket, available at your local hardware supply store. Tell them what kind of water heater you have (electric, gas, or oil) and take care to choose the right blanket for your type.

The final step? Make sure to cut holes for the pipes, TPR valve, and temperature controls before sealing the water heater with the blanket. Look in on your water heater periodically, and keep up with your routine maintenance for problem-free hot water flow.

About the Author

Shannon Dauphin is a freelance writer based near Nashville, Tennessee. Her house was built in 1901, so home repair and renovation have become her hobbies.

Search Improvement Project