Water heaters need love too.

Buying a house is buying a job. So go into your mechanical room regularly, and have a look around. See that puddle of water beside the water heater? That needs your attention right away. Now there are several possible causes for that accumulation of water on the floor (or in the drain pan if your luck enough to have one.) According to water heater manufacturer GSW’s website :

Water accumulating on the floor or in the drain pan is generally caused by one of the following conditions:

  • Condensation (this isn’t very likely in Calgary, but can happen as part of refilling a tank after maintenance)
  • Drain valve leaking.
  • Temperature and pressure relief valve leaking
  • Leak from piping on and near the inlet and outlet
  • Leak at gas valve threaded connection (gas models only)
  • Leak from gaskets for electric elements (electric models only)
  • Leak in heater tank

All but the last one are typically repairable (replacing a faulty TPR valve for example); a leaky tank however, is more often than not, a replacement issue.

Now let me say a few words about anode rods. The anode rod is intended to be a sacrificial component that slows the rate of corrosion of the steel components of the water heater (like the tank itself when the glass lining inevitably gets cracks). These rods can be Aluminum (great for hard water), magnesium, or zinc (really a zinc/aluminum alloy with about 10% zinc). These rods can be almost entirely sacrificed (meaning no longer effective) in 4-5 years, they are about $50 and many homeowners are capable of checking and replacing their own rods. If you want an idea of what’s involved check out Family Handyman.

Here in Calgary, most water heaters are replaced at 9-13 yrs of age when the units have built up hard water sediment and no longer operate as quickly and efficiently as they once did. I don’t (yet) know if anode replacement is a worthwhile investment unless you are diligent about flushing your water heater, as many manufacturer’s recommend, but Family Handyman and others suggest a doubling of water heater expected life. I am going to follow this practice on my home with my new water heater – check back with me in 13 years and find out!

One other note is that the use of a water softener can speed the rate of anode consumption. So I’ll be checking at year three instead of waiting ’til year five.

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Water staining discovered on the floor beside the water heater during a downtown Calgary condo inspection. Note the mineral deposits on the end of the discharge tube. This water heater has a leaky TPR.

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This water heater inspected in Thorncliff, Calgary had leakage where the TPR entered the tank.

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These older tanks (this one was a 20 yr old tank from an inspection in Oakridge, Calgary) often had marks where the gas line entered the tank. Sometimes from over heating, sometimes from water leakage.

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This leaking water heater from a home inspection in Panorama, Calgary was leaking from the drain valve. This can be relatively easy repair if caught early but can lead to expensive water damage if left undetected.