A water heater can last 30 years, but most fail in about 10, due largely to neglect. Perform the following tasks annually, or hire a plumber or HVAC professional to do them, and you'll save your heater from a premature death.

  • Drain tank until the water runs clear (see photo). If there's lots of sediment, drain tank twice a year.
  • Inspect the pressure-relief valve for corrosion. If rusty, have a plumber replace it right away.
  • On a gas or oil-fired unit, check combustion chamber and flue vent for rust, corrosion, and obstructions. On an electric heater, remove and check heating elements, but first shut off power and drain tank.
  • Remove and inspect anode rod (or rods). Replace if 6 inches or more of the rod's core wire is exposed.
  • Keep water temperature between 120 and 130 degrees. (Check with a thermometer under the tap.) Higher temperatures speed corrosion.

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