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Water Heaters

A water heater is an appliance that heats potable water and supplies heated water to the home’s plumbing distribution system.  Most tanks are insulated steel cylinders with an enamel coating on the inner surface. They are referred to as glass-lined tanks. The lining helps prevent corrosion.  A water heater can literally explode if it’s not installed properly. There are standards that regulate the materials, design and installation of water heaters and their related safety devices. Certification marks on them from approved agencies indicate compliance with approved standards.

Conventional residential water heaters have life expectancies that vary greatly.  The typical water heater has a lifespan of about 10 years, based on the following factors: correct installation; usage volume; construction quality; and maintenance.

Correct Installation
A water heater should generally be installed upright. Installing a water heater on its side will place structural stress on it due to inadequate support for the heater and its pipes, and may cause premature failure.  Water heaters should be installed in well-ventilated areas — not just for fire safety requirements and nitrous-oxide buildup, but also because poor ventilation can shorten its lifespan.  A water heater should also not be placed in an area susceptible to flood damage. Water can rust out the exterior and pipes, decreasing the life expectancy and efficiency of the unit.  A water heater is best placed in an easily accessible area for maintenance.  It should also be readily visible for fire and health-hazard requirements.

Usage
The life expectancy of the water heater depends a great deal on the volume of water used. Using large quantities of water means that the water heater will have to work harder to heat the water. In addition, the greater the volume of water, the greater the corrosive effect of the water will be on the tank materials, pipes, etc.

Construction Quality
As with most household systems and components, you get what you pay for in a water heater. Cheaper models will generally have a shorter lifespan, while more expensive models will generally last longer. A good indication of a water heater’s construction quality is its warranty.  Longer warranties naturally imply sound construction. According to a 2007 Consumer Report that deconstructed 18 different models of water heaters, it was determined that models with longer warranties were of superior manufacturing quality, with nine- and 12-year models typically having larger or higher-wattage heating elements, as well as thicker insulation. Models with larger heating elements have a much better resistance to mineral buildup or scum.

Pay attention to the model’s features.  For example, porcelain casing provides an additional layer of protection against rusting, and a greater level of heat insulation. Some models come with a self-cleaning feature that flushes the pipes of mineral deposit buildup, which can affect the unit’s lifespan.  Models with larger or thicker anodes are better-equipped to fight corrosion.

Maintenance and Parts Replacement
The hardness of the water is another consideration when looking at estimating the lifespan of a water heater.  In areas where there is a higher mineral content to the water, water heaters have shorter a lifespan than in other areas, as mineral buildup reduces the units’ efficiency. Even in areas where the water is softer, however, some mineral deposition is bound to occur.  A way to counteract this mineral buildup is to periodically flush the water heater system, which not only removes some of the buildup, but, in tank systems, the process heats the water in the tank. Higher-end models typically come equipped with a self-flushing feature.  In models for which manual flushing is required, it is important not to damage the water heater valve, which is usually made of plastic and is easy to break.

Although an older model may appear to be well-maintained, a question arises:  Is the maintenance worth it? Warranties often exclude labor costs, so a good rule to follow is that if the total repair cost per year is greater than 10% of the cost of buying and installing a new water heater, it is probably not worth replacing any damaged parts.

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Seasonal Maintenance Checklist: In the Spring

springhome

Spring has sprung!  March 20th was the first day of spring, so as you are spending more time outdoors, take a few minutes to address some Spring home maintenance items that will help to maintain the value of your investment:

  • Roof:  Check for damage to your roof.  Especially here in Oklahoma you should do this after each big spring storm.
  • Exterior Siding & Trim:  Check all the fascia and trim for deterioration and caulk as needed.
  • Masonry:  Check for masonry cracks or voids and tuck-point as needed.
  • HVAC:  Have an HVAC professional inspect and maintain your system as recommended by the manufacturer.
  • Water Heater:  Check your water heater for leaks or rust.  Drain water heater tank to reduce sediment (consult a licensed plumber first if you have not been doing this annually for your water heater).
  • Fire Extinguishers:  Check you fire extinguishers.  I recommend you have one for your kitchen and garage.
  • Kitchen Exhaust:  Clean the kitchen exhaust hood and air filter.
  • Concrete:  Repair all cracked, broken and uneven driveways and walks to help provide a level walking surface.
  • Plumbing:  Check the shutoff valves at the plumbing fixtures to make sure they function.
  • Dryer Exhaust:  Clean the clothes dryer exhaust duct and damper and the space under the dryer.  Ensure that your dryer is venting to the exterior and not to the attic or garage.
  • Gutters:  Clean gutters and downspouts.  Repair as necessary.  Make sure water is diverted from the home.
  • Filters:  Replace HVAC filters, water treatment system filters, water filter in the refrigerator, and any other filters as needed.
  • Concrete:  Pressure wash deck, drive, and walkways.
  • Exterior:  Walk exterior perimeter of house and check for potential entry points for critters.
  • Detectors:  Replace batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

 

Scott Price, CPI, #1532
Certified Home Inspector
Home Run Inspections
405-905-9175

homeruninspections@icloud.com
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