Although many have switched to tankless water heaters, may hot water heaters still use a tank. If your home has a water heater tank, there are a few important tips you may want to know about properly caring for it and when you may need to get it replaced, or how to maintain it to best extend its life.

Welcome to 2020

It’s another new year and time to have a realistic look at your home or businesses heating, ventilation, air conditioning and plumbing.

If You Forgot, You’re Not Alone

No matter how many times your plumber warns you about the remaining, if any, life expectancy of your gas hot water heater tank or warranty, you’re likely going to wait that one day too many. At that point, it’s no longer an option of whether to get a hot water tank replacement sooner or later. Breathe a sigh of relief, this is what our plumbing services (available any time or day of the week) are for.

Where are Water Heaters Located Again?

If you’re home is like many, there’s a utility space for the heating system and hot water heater tanks to heat water or home temperature. The other space is a basement, usually carpeted with, depending on who lives there, a sofa, a big screen TV, electronic game console brands like Xbox or Nintendo Switch. There might be a table for snacks during NFL, NBA, or MLB games. There could be an exercise bike, bought with the best intentions 4 years ago, a total of 21 miles on its odometer.

Hot Water Heater Tanks

Bradford White TankLet’s start the new year with a lesson on the water heater tank. Unlike the boiler or furnace, which last decades, hot water heater tanks of electric or gas water heaters have a life expectancy which may vary. The better the brands, the longer the life span for your family or household.

How to Determine the Water Heater Tank Brand

Determining the age of your storage tank can be easy or challenging. It’s easy if your town’s plumbing inspector placed a signed and dated inspection sticker, from when he approved the work. Since the adoption of a 4 inch exhaust gas vent from the hot water tank through the chimney into the air, closer inspections to ensure installations are up to this new code have become a vital step, ensuring that no CO2 exhaust gases (the exhaust gases from burning propane to keep heating water) escape into your home or business air and cause health exposure to your family.

Last Resort: Water Heater Tank Build Date

Alternatively, regardless of when you purchased your home or replaced the hot water heater tank, a manufacturer’s plate of when it was built can be used to confirm the build date. Hot water heater tanks don’t linger in wholesaler’s or plumber’s warehouses long, so a manufacturer’s date is a viable choice to determine its age.

The Hard Water in Bergen County Water Heaters

Regardless of when it was last replaced or installed, water in Bergen County, NJ has become “hard”. Hard water has high mineral content and is formed when water percolates through deposits of limestone, chalk or gypsum (largely made up of calcium and magnesium carbonates, bicarbonates and sulfates).

Sediment Builds Up in Pipes and Water Heaters

In addition, despite water filtration centers throughout Bergen County, the pipes that deliver the water to your home have been underground for decades. Bits of those pipes loosen, becoming part of the water supply that enters your home. Before you envision 5-pound rocks, they’re really no bigger than sand, but they combine with the aforementioned deposits of multiple minerals. Unless you have installed a whole house water filtration and purification system, the cold-water supply line to your hot water heater tank collects these imperfections.

More on Water Contamination

What’s the result of impurities in your plumbing? It depends on your home, how long the impurities collect before they’re cleaned out. It also depends on what ends up in the water. Here’s a 2016 report on Bergen and Hudson Water Contamination NJ.com News Lead Found In Drinking Water System.

The Hard Water Proof

faucet components

Want to see for yourself the evidence of hard water in your home? You don’t need to open your gas water heater to find out if there could be sediment or minerals collecting inside.clea

The Hard Water Faucet Test

There’s an easy way to check if you have hard water in your home and plumbing systems (most likely in your water heater tank as well). Got low water pressure? On the edge of most kitchen faucets, there are a series of screens to minimize that sediment from becoming a part of your morning coffee (what a relief).

Tips for Cleaning your Kitchen Faucet

If you visit the Muccia Plumbing Facebook page, we review the components and the process of cleaning the screens, which helps to renew water pressure when they get clogged with sediment. There is an aerator housing screwed into the faucet end which you likely need to remove with pliers. Because you don’t want to damage the finish, we recommend wrapping a rag to loosen the cap. You will then see several screens, so take note of their sequence in the cap as you gently flush some running water to remove any sediment. Assembly is the reverse of disassembly, and again a rag should be used to avoid marring or scratching chrome fixtures when tightening the threaded aerator housing, though hand-tight with no leaks is acceptable. Start slowly to avoid crossing the threads.

Draining the Tank

Back to the hot water tank heater. Unfortunately, it has no screen, and therefore over years the sediment can build up at the bottom of the tank. It’s possible to extend the like of the tank by opening the valve to drain it through the hose fitting and allowing fresh water to enter the tank. You’ll see brownish water as the tank and the sediment empty into a nearby drain. Once the water is clear, you’ve gotten as much sediment as possible out (but not all).

Anode Rods

Hot water tank cutawayAnother choice is to replace the anode rod that’s placed in every residential or commercial hot water heater tank. These anode rods are made of different materials.

Aluminum Anode Rods

Aluminum rods were used years ago, and parents bought bottled water for their family or household since consuming aluminum is unhealthy.

Magnesium Anode Rods

Magnesium anode rods are the most popular EXCEPT where hard water is present, like Bergen County, NJ. In fact, replacing the manufacturer’s anode rod may actually accelerate the corrosion and with it, the end of the life of the hot water heater tank.

Zinc Anode Rods

Zinc rods are made of a combination of aluminum and zinc, 1 proportion of zinc to 10 proportions of aluminum. Zinc serves to reduce the smell of sulfur which can affect some water tanks, although modern water heaters aren’t typically supplied with zinc anode rods installed at the factory.

Impressed Current Rods

These models use electricity to attract corrosion. These electric rods don’t have a sacrificial metal, nor lack the self-created current capacity anode rods usually have. Impressed current rods don’t need removal and replacement, as they don’t corrode, but they need to be infrequently cleaned in order to maintain the charge. Please note that electric impressed current anode rods are usually found in large commercial water heaters, where the capacity and risk of corrosion is higher than usual.

Combination Anodes Rods

The combination anode is an ordinary anode which is attached in an unusual place. Most anodes are at the top of the heater, attached by a hex head screw. Some water heaters have an anode attached to the hot water outlet. This anode is installed inside the pipe, and can be difficult to reach, often involving the removal and breakage of the pipe and the unscrewing of the hot water pipe nipple attachment. You can add a combination anode by lowering a rod into the pipe after removing the attachment and replacing it with a rod.

Henry's Plumbing Supply

Additional Considerations for Replacing Anode Rods

Before heading to your local plumbing store location to replace anode rods, there are some important considerations.

The Nut May be Difficult to Remove

First, if you look at the top of a typical 40-gallon tank, you’ll see a 6 sided “nut”. That’s the part holding the anode when it was delivered from the manufacturer. It’s tightened by machine installation, set to an exact torque, and extremely hard to loosen.

Also, within a 3-4 year span, in Bergen County, NJ and other parts of the US having hard water, it’s likely the original anode rod is a mere skeleton of the original.

Be Careful not to Break the Tank!

Between the difficult position and tight fit of the factory anode nut, even the strongest do-it-yourselfer might not be ale to crack it open and remove it, but the cost of a typical anode rod of $25 may make it seem like a wise decision.

Be Prepared: Check the Details of your Tank

If you do remove the existing anode rod, make sure you take the make, model and capacity of your current water heater tank. While I am certainly a fan of saving money, the best choice is to budget for a new water heater tank every 8-10 years, and most plumbers offer financing since the cost of a quality water heater tank, if it needs expansion for the exhaust from 3” to 4”, will average between $1,700 and $2,000. Play it safe. If the nut cracks under the pressure necessary for the removal operation, your family can’t heat water until it’s replaced.

Gas and Electric Water Heater Tanks

Are you using a gas water heater, or do you have an electric water heater? Both types and models of heaters are fairly common, and although a gas water heater tends to be cheaper up-front than electric water heaters, the energy efficient electric system could save enough of the cost of natural gas or propane gas to make the up-front cost of electric water heaters worthwhile over a gas water heater.

The energy costs of efficiency features of these electric heaters over gas or natural gas, especially the high efficiency electric water heaters (an especially energy efficient option) can be a good way to reduce your monthly costs of tank water heating. Thermostats that allow operation of temperature with precision and efficiency can also save energy or gas (both gas and electric water heaters). If you have a gas water heater using natural gas or propane gas and want to save on the cost of energy, switching up your temperature thermostat may be worth looking into!

What About Switching to Tankless Water Heaters?

Replacing the electric or gas water heater tank is always a good option, but what about switching from tank water heaters to tankless water heaters, hybrid or heat pump water heaters? Using a tankless water heater could extend the life span of your water heater (a tankless water heater can easily last twice as long as a tank water heater). They can give your family more storage space capacity as well. It may be a more intensive project to switch from a tank water heater to tankless water heater or heat pump water heater, but with the benefits offered by heat pump or tankless water heaters or hybrid water heaters, it may be an option worth looking into.

Muccia Plumbing offers residential water heater services including gas, and we can help with conversions to tankless water heaters or heat pump water heaters or hybrid water heaters, or we could offer offer consultation on your heating system to determine what might be the best option for you.

The purchase and installation of a new tank with the same or greater capacity or with different features like higher efficiency non-gas or upgraded models may be a good investment of resources, and may give you energy savings as you heat water in the long run.

Muccia Logo

Contact Muccia Plumbing for Top-Quality Plumbing in NJ!

Now that you know all about residential water heaters (storage tank water heaters, tankless water heaters, hybrid heaters, gas and electric water heaters, etc), as well as ways to extend the life and efficiency of your water heater storage tank, how to deal with hard water, changing temperature or type of energy use to reduce costs, and even different types of anode rods, you may be looking for a plumbing store, services, or a consultation on your heating.

Muccia Plumbing, Heating and AC Service shop has served Bergen County homes and businesses for over 43 years. We service all brands and models of hot water heater storage tanks and deliver top-quality services. We recommend Bradford-White store tanks because of their superior performance, warranty, and longevity. The are proudly built in the USA. Muccia Plumbing shop offers customer support by phone 24 x 7 x 365 including weekends, holidays and late-night. Our technicians are factory trained to service HVAC systems and offer advice on getting the most for your hard-earned money. Call us at 201-343-1414 or visit our website at mucciaplumbing.com for discount coupons. Subscribe to our newsletter to get special offers, shop new products, “Do-It-Yourselfer” tips, and more!

Sources & References:

CorroProtec.com. Next Generation Anode Rod For Water Heaters. https://www.corroprotec.com/powered-anode-rod/

FamilyHandyman.com. How to Flush a Water Heater. https://www.familyhandyman.com/project/how-to-flush-a-water-heater/

Inspectapedia.com. Gas Water Heater Vent Codes & Standards. https://inspectapedia.com/plumbing/Gas-Water-Heater-Venting-Codes.php

HomeAdvisor.com. How Much Does Water Heater Installation Or Replacement Cost? https://www.homeadvisor.com/cost/plumbing/install-a-water-heater/

HomeDepot.com. When to Replace a Water Heater. https://www.homedepot.com/c/ai/when-to-replace-a-water-heater/9ba683603be9fa5395fab902705deac

Hot-Water-Heaters-Reviews.com. Can a Water Heater Cause Carbon Monoxide Poisoning. https://www.hot-water-heaters-reviews.com/can-a-water-heater-cause-carbon-monoxide-poisoning.html

HouseLogic.com. Water Heater Buyer’s Guide: Gas vs. Electric Water Heater. https://www.houselogic.com/organize-maintain/home-maintenance-tips/hot-water-heater-buyers-guide/

News.EnergySage.com. Pros and cons of electric water heaters. https://news.energysage.com/pros-cons-electric-water-heaters/

NJ.Com. Lead Found in Drinking Water System Serving Bergen Hudson Towns. https://www.nj.com/news/2019/01/lead-found-in-drinking-water-system-serving-bergen-hudson-towns.html

STGWaterHeaters.com. Are You Suffering From Aluminum Toxicity? https://stgwaterheaters.com/2018/09/10/aluminum-toxicity/

ThePinkPlumber.com. The Advantages of a Gas Water Heater. https://thepinkplumber.com/news/the-advantages-of-a-gas-water-heater

TheSpruce.com. How to Clean Hard Water Deposits. https://www.thespruce.com/how-to-clean-hard-water-deposits-2718816

ThorntonAndGrooms.com. Why Does My Water Heater Smell Like Rotten Eggs? https://thorntonandgrooms.com/help-guides/why-does-my-water-heater-smell-like-rotten-eggs