How to Prevent Water Heater Disasters and Damage


Water heaters – they’re a staple in homes across Indiana, the United States, and beyond. We rely on this plumbing appliance everyday to provide hot water for bathing, cleaning, and cooking. While many homeowners don’t pay their tank water heaters much mind unless they fail to work, these appliances need some regular care and maintenance to remain in good working condition – without this maintenance care, a water heater failure could cause serious damage to the home. Hays + Sons explains how to maintain your tank style water heater and why you need to make it a priority.

Issues Affecting Water Heater Condition and Performance

Efficiency is key for water heater performance, allowing the appliance to supply a household with plentiful and affordable hot water. The top issues affecting tank water heater condition and performance are mineral deposits and rusting.

Mineral Deposit Problems

With water constantly moving in and out of the storage tank, minerals within the water supply can settle inside the water heater. These deposits form a layer over the heating element situated at the bottom of the tank.

As mineral buildup grows, it creates a barrier between the heating element and the incoming cool water that needs to be heated. It will take longer for the system to heat water to your preferred temperature, and more water and energy is used in the process. Eventually, the heating element will burn out due to excess strain, causing the system to fail.

Rusting Ruins Tanks

Contact with water naturally causes metals to erode – steel is especially vulnerable, which is the material water heaters are made from. Because water constantly flows in and out of a water heater tank, it’s easy to see why rusting is a concern.

Fortunately, tank water heaters are built with a component specifically meant to combat metal deterioration: the anode rod. The anode rod is an aluminum or magnesium rod that is installed at the top of the unit and extends down into the tank. These materials are more attractive than steel to the ions that cause rust, so these ions will erode the anode rod instead of the steel tank walls. When anode rods are more than 50 percent consumed, the steel tank is at risk for rusting.

Maintenance for Tank Water Heaters

To combat the issues of mineral buildup and rusting, perform these maintenance tasks for your water heater.

Draining the Tank

To clean and remove mineral buildup from the water heater tank, the tank should be drained about once a year, or more frequently if you have exceptionally hard water at home. Once the tank is drained, it should be flushed with cold water to remove any debris left behind.

Check and Replace Anode Rod

A water heater’s anode rod typically lasts three years, but this could be less if your home has hard water. Check the tank’s anode rod yearly to see its condition and replace it every three years, or sooner if needed.

When to Seek Professional Help from a Plumber

The water heater maintenance tasks above can be performed by most homeowners. However, you shouldn’t start draining your tank water heater if you haven’t done so for several years. At this point, mineral deposits may be filling cracks in the tank lining, actually preventing leaks – if you drain and flush the tank, these deposits will be removed, exposing leaks and potentially causing water damage.

Rusty or dirty water is an indicator of water heater issues. Water that smells or tastes off can also signal a problem with this appliance. Anytime your water heater requires service beyond simple maintenance, such as repairs, it’s best to call in a licensed plumber. Attempting repairs on your own could damage the water heater, cause water damage in the home, or create other dangers if gas lines are involved.

When Tank Water Heaters Fail – a Cautionary Tale

Failure of a tank water heater can cause devastating damage in a home. Learn from this customer experience why maintaining your system is so important.

My family and I were sitting in the living room when a massive BOOM came roaring up the stairs, and the house shook slightly. We ran downstairs only to find a massive hole in the side of the water heater, with metal flared outward. We inspected it further and even found bits of metal that had shot out and was embedded in nearby woodwork.

What could’ve caused this? The water heater’s anode rod, which helps prevent erosion of the walls inside the water heater tank, was completely gone. Water began to erode the inside of the tank, causing weak spots in the metal tank that we weren’t visible to the eye. There was also a large buildup of sediment within the tank, lowering its efficiency. As the water heater tried to make up for this lack in efficiency, it worked harder and harder, causing more pressure to build up inside.

The weak spots formed by deterioration combined with the pressure buildup from deposits created the perfect storm. The weak metal couldn’t handle the excess pressure and the tank abruptly exploded. Luckily, no one was in the basement when it happened. It could have caused serious injury if someone was!

When a tank water heater fails like this, 40 to 120 gallons of water can immediately flood the area depending on the size of the appliance. This disaster not only results in the need for a new water heater, but often the damage caused requires serious water restoration work.

Professional Water Damage Restoration Services in Indiana

While tank water heaters seem like a harmless household appliance, they can be the source of costly water damage when maintenance is neglected. If your home has been damaged due to a water heater failure, contact Hays + Sons today to learn more about the water damage restoration services we offer.

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