As you use your water heater over the years, it is but normal for sediment to form inside the storage tank. The water that we use at home, after all, contain naturally-occurring minerals, and those minerals solidify when exposed to high temperatures. Sometimes, the sediments come from sand and other particles in well and municipal water too. The problem with sediment in your water heater is that they eventually settle to the bottom of the storage tank and cause a number of issues.
Problems caused by sediment in your water heater
For one, when sediment covers the water heater’s gas burner or lower electric element, it effectively slows down the transfer of heat. That means the water heater has to work harder just to heat the entire tankful of water to temperatures specified by the user. For another, sediments also reduce the capacity of the water tank, as they displace water. That means less hot water available for use.
A major problem that may arise because of sediments is the fact that it can cause premature damage and failure. Gas-fired water heaters, for instance, could eventually be damaged by an insulating layer of sediment on the bottom of the tank. That insulating layer can cause the area below the burner to overheat, and damage the metal tank and its glass lining over time. As for electric water heaters, they will eventually fail when sediment is already covering the bottom element.
Flush your water heater yearly
The only real way of keeping sediments from overwhelming your water heater is to flush the tank once a year. The process is actually simple enough for a home owner with average DIY skills to perform correctly.
Before anything else, you have to shut the power source down, so if you have an electric hot water system, turn the circuit breaker off. For gas-powered water heaters, turning off the valve that feeds the gas into the heater should do it. Obviously, since the water heater will always be hot before you turn it off, let it cool for an hour or so before getting on with the job.
You will then need to locate the drain valve at the bottom of the tank. A garden hose can be prove to be handy for this task. Get one, hook it up to the valve, and take the other end outside or somewhere that will allow you to drain all the water safety without making a mess.
At the top of the tank is the cold water inlet valve, which you need to close. Open the drain valve at the bottom to drain all the water from the tanks, and shut it off when all the water has been flushed. You should then partly fill the tank by opening the cold water inlet valve and letting cold water flow into it. When the tank is partly filled, close the valve on top again, and repeat the draining procedure described earlier by opening the drain valve.
Once the water runs clear, you can completely refill the tank. Once the tank is refilled, you can proceed to turning the breaker or gas on again.
Water heaters usually last 10 to 15 years. By performing this maintenance task on a regular basis, your water heater can indeed last that long, or even longer in some cases.