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Signs Your Water Heater Tank Needs Replacing

Plumbing
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Sometimes it's easy to tell that your water heater tank needs replacing. A tank that's corroded and leaking can't be repaired or patched, and has to go. There are other symptoms, though—like not enough hot water or leaks around tank fittings—that may mean your water heater tank needs replacing.

Many water heater problems can be repaired, but sometimes repairs may not be practical. Repairing a water heater tank that's nearly worn out can just add the repair costs to the price you'll pay for a replacement a few months down the line. Before you make a decision about repairing versus replacing, look at your water heater's:

Age If you're not sure about the age, it may be hidden in its serial number. Water heater serial numbers usually contain the date the unit was manufactured. If the serial number begins with a letter, it corresponds to a month (A = January, B = February, and so on). The two numbers immediately following are the year, so L-98 would mean your tank was manufactured in December, 1998. If the first four digits are numbers, they will either be the month and year (1298) or the year and the week of the year (9852 – the last week of December, 1998).

Most water heater tanks have a life expectancy of eight to twelve years. If your water heater tank is more than twelve years old and having any kind of problem, it's probably more cost effective to replace it.

Anode rod The magnesium or aluminum anode rod inside your water heater tank is designed to attract the tiny electrical currents that occur in the hot water. By attracting these currents, the rods corrode instead of the tank walls, helping the tank and fittings last longer.

Check your anode rod. If there's little or no metal left around the steel core wire, there has almost certainly been damage to the tank. Replace it.

Temperature setting Corrosion occurs faster at higher temperatures, so setting your water heater thermostat to higher than 130° speeds up corrosion quite a bit.

If the temperature has been set at that level or higher for more than eight years, the damage is most likely not repairable. Replace it.

When your water heater goes on the fritz, an expert repair might get it humming again. Some problems, though, mean it's time for a replacement. Double checking your water heater tank's age, anode rod and temperature setting can help you decide whether you need to shop for a plumber or a new water heater.

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