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Here are 5 things to remember about water heaters

(Flickr/Josh Larios)

One of the most frequent plumbing problems in Arizona homes is a water heater that leaks and needs replacing.

So here are some basic facts about those water heaters and how to care for them:

1. Your water heater will not last forever

Generally, you will get 7 to 10 years of performance for a water heater with a tank. But some lucky owners have water heaters that are more than 15 years old and some unfortunate homeowners have water heaters that die in two years. A good warranty for a water heater will guarantee replacement in the first couple of years.

2. You can keep your water heater in good condition

The No. 1 way to extend the lifespan for a water heater is flushing the scale out of your unit once a year. That process will remove sediment collecting at the bottom of the tank that could cause corrosion in your water heater. But if you haven’t drained an aging water heater for several years, forget about trying it in an older unit. The sediment may have turned into a solid rock in the tank, and the draining process may even damage your water heater.

You can drain it yourself or call a plumber. Check out your own instruction manual or read our instructions for draining water heaters.

3. Installing a water softener can slow down the buildup of sediment in your water heater

Another issue: Sometimes your hot water starts to smell bad. That means you have to replace the anode rod in the water heater, a device that corrodes over time. The metal rod is designed to deteriorate in order to protect other metal parts in the tank. You can also call a plumber to do this job.

4. In buying or installing a water heater — if you have a choice — pick a gas unit

Gas will be more efficient and cost less than heating water with electricity.

5. If you’re replacing a water heater, think about a tankless unit

Since they came out about 10 years ago, tankless water heaters – gas and electric — have become very popular. Some people call them “instant” heaters, but that’s not really true. The

unit heats up the water quickly, but the water still has to travel through pipes to reach your sink or shower.

These units can save money in the long run because they’re not heating a big tank constantly to provide hot water when needed.

But with a tankless, retrofitting may be needed for pipes and vents. You definitely need a water softener, too, because tankless systems are more susceptible to corrosion from minerals in hard water.

Usually, tankless heaters need very little maintenance and reportedly last longer than conventional water heaters.

Rosie on the House

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