A conventional tank type water heater can last upwards of 15 years if it’s taken care of properly. However, if you don’t perform regular maintenance and watch for corrosion, you could be cutting that lifespan in half.
Both gas-fired and electric water heaters can suffer from corrosion of the steel exterior tank if the sacrificial anode is not maintained. The sacrificial anode is a piece of catalytic metal that is inserted in the center of the tank. Its mission is to rust so that the tank will not. Anodes can get covered in calcium carbonate and fail to work or they can literally rust away. In systems that work in tandem with a water softener, these anodes can deteriorate faster. It’s a good idea to check yours every 3-4 years. If it’s covered in calcium carbonate or is easy to bend, it’s time for a replacement.
An electric storage tank water heater also can suffer from galvanic metal corrosion. This happens when the copper in the heating element comes in contact with steel in a wet environment. This type of corrosion can render an electric heater ineffective, or significantly reduce its water heating ability.
Gas water heaters can suffer from rust near the burn compartment. This can allow water from the interior of the tank to leak into the combustion chamber that may extinguish the pilot flame or cause a very unsafe condition
The other place that rust can be a problem is in the vent lines of gas water heaters. If water condenses on or in the venting, it can prematurely cause failure to the vent piping and the tank itself. When operating as designed, the venting on the tank carries flue gases to the outdoors where they safely condense. If the system is not operating properly, the flue gases are allowed to condense within the flue system before exiting to the outdoors. This type of operation, causes acid to be present and absorbed into the metal it touches, thus causing the corrosion issue. The flue venting systems are meant to take dangerous combustion fumes out of the home, any corrosion is a sign that there is a serious operation problem. In severe cases, gases such as carbon monoxide can leak into your home and put you and your family in danger.
If you want to learn more about your Greater Kansas City area home’s water heating corrosion potential, please contact our professionals at Overland Park Heating & Cooling. We can send a certified HVAC technician to your home to perform a maintenance check to determine if corrosion is something you need to worry about.
Our goal is to help educate our customers in Overland Park, Kansas about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems).
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