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Common Water Heater Myths Answered

Ask This Old House plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey shares some tips on maintaining water heaters.

Water heater myths explained:

  1. Look for a rating plate on the water heater that will tell when the tank was manufactured and the warranty life. Tanks that have reached the end of their warranty period are more likely to fail.
  2. If you’re planning to change to a different style water heater, like going from a tank-style to a tankless, its better to change proactively.
  3. A water heater's placement will also help determine when it should be replaced. A water heater in the living area or a finished basement could do more damage if it floods than one in an unfinished basement.
  4. By proactively changing the anode rod in a tank-style water heater every few years, a tank can be kept in service for many years. If the anode rod isn’t changed in the first few years of the water heater’s life, it may be impossible to remove later.
  5. Periodically drain the water heater by attaching a hose to the draw off at the bottom of the tank, turn the water supply off, and then turn the water supply off and on a few times quickly.
  6. If you notice a leak on the floor, turn off the water supply, attach a hose to the draw off, and drain the tank below the level of the leak. Call a plumber to replace the water heater.


Richard explains that most tank-type water heaters last for about 8-12 years. However, by changing the anode rod every 2 years, you can make the hot water tank last for as long as 30 years. Water heaters and parts can be found at The Home Depot.

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Anode rod

(Available via The Home Depot)