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4 Ways to Prevent a Costly Water Heater Burst

August 04, 2016

You can prevent water heater bursts and the massive costs that come with them by doing these 4 things:

  1. Flush and drain the tank annually
  2. Replace the anode rod periodically
  3. Get professional maintenance annually
  4. Replace the water heater when decrepit 

Let’s explain these in more detail. 

1) Flush and drain the tank annually

Water heater tanks need draining because of sediment (mineral) build-up. 

When sediment settles on the bottom of the tank near the heating element, the tank overheats and deteriorates. 

And if it deteriorates enough? BOOM! The tank bursts, flooding all over your home, 

How do you know if you have major sediment build up? Listen for a knocking, rumbling noise when your water heater is working.  

How to flush and drain your water heater:

1. If you have a gas water heater, turn the water heater control to “pilot.”  If you have an electric water heater, turn off the water heater at the circuit breaker.

2. Turn off the cold water supply. Do this by either turning a cold water ball valve clockwise or pulling a cold water lever, which should be above the water heater.

3. Let the water heater cool down for about 30 minutes. 

4. Connect a garden hose to the drain valve, which is located at the bottom of the water heater tank.

5. Place the hose’s other end at a basement drain or other drainage area.

6. Open a hot water faucet somewhere in your home to prevent a vacuum from forming in the water lines.

7. Turn the small slot on the water heater’s drain valve. 

8. Pull the tab out on the pressure relief valve.

9. Let the water drain out completely. You may or may not see any nasty sediment come out. You’ll most likely see it in the next step.

10. Turn the cold water valve on and off a few times to flush out any remaining sediment.

11. When the water starts running clear, close the drain valve. Allow the cold water to fill the tank.

12. Return the pressure-relief valve to its initial position and shut off the hot water faucet.

13. Turn the water heater back on.

14. BAM! You’re done!

If that sounds like too much work, just call a professional for help.

2) Replace the anode rod periodically

The anode rod helps prevent the water heater tank from corroding by corroding in its place. (Here’s the sciency explanation for how that works). That’s why the rod is often called a “sacrificial anode rod.”

However, once the rod has been depleted, the glass-lined tank will begin corroding, shortening its lifespan as a result. 

Replace the rod about every 6 years (or around the time the warranty expires). Also, the rod’s lifespan shortens if you use a water softener, according to Rheem.

Check out this tutorial on FamilyHandyman.com on how to buy and replace an anode rod 

3) Get professional maintenance annually

According to the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS), you should  “have a plumbing professional inspect your water heater’s shut-off valve and all piping annually. Signs of broken valves and loose or wet joints and rust are a signal that more severe damage is coming.”

4) Replace the water heater when decrepit

If your water heater is between 10 and 20 years old, start looking for a new one and contact your local Kansas City plumber for an installation estimate

Why 10 to 20 years?

Well, according to IBHS, water heaters that were up to 20 years old accounted for 95% of water heater failure claims. Of course, 20 years is definitely on the optimistic side for a water heater’s lifespan. 

On average, the typical water heater lives about 10 years, according to the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors. But if you never maintained your water heater, it can easily burst before it’s 10 years old

Got questions about water heaters?

Just ask us. We’ll be happy to help.

Santa Fe Air Conditioning and Heating serves the Kansas City area. For more information, contact us online.