Having hot water on demand is one of life’s greatest luxuries. If you want to enjoy hot water for years to come then it’s worth speaking to your plumber about hot water installation and maintenance. A skilled plumber can extend the life of your hot water heater by decades and prevent tiny issues from spiralling into major problems.
Types of Hot Water Heaters
The type of hot water heater you choose can have a big impact on price, energy consumption and the expected lifespan. The good news is that homeowners are now spoiled for choice and have access to a number of different types of hot water heaters:
- Electric water heaters – This is the most common option in Australia. They use an electric heating element to heat up a tank of water. They are affordable and easy to install, but often far less energy efficient than the alternatives.
- Gas water heaters – Gas hot water comes in two varieties. Tank-type heaters work similarly to electric heaters except they burn natural gas to heat the water. Tankless heaters use gas to heat the water as it flows through the system, avoiding the need for a storage tank.
- Solar water heaters – These use special solar panels to capture the sun’s energy and heat water that’s stored in a tank. Solar water systems often have electric or gas-powered heaters to provide heating on colder days.
- Heat pump water heaters – Heat pumps work on the same principle as air conditioners, using the heat from the air to warm the water. These types of water heaters are very efficient, but they often cost more up front.
The Lifespan of Hot Water Systems
The lifespan of a hot water system depends on lots of different factors. Things like the quality of water in your area, how the system is used, maintenance requirements and the type of system all play a role. As a rule of thumb, you’d expect a quality hot water system to last 10-20 years, depending on its power source. Gas hot water systems often have slightly shorter lifespans due to the extra complexity and stress of gas heating. On the other hand, solar and heat pump hot water systems can last much longer, with some solar companies claiming their systems last up to 30 years.
Symptoms of Failing Hot Water Heaters
Most hot water heaters are incredibly simple devices. They typically have very few moving parts, making them reliable enough to work all day, every day. If you follow a yearly maintenance schedule then you can expect to get decades of use from your hot water system. In between service appointments, keep an eye out for some of these common symptoms that your water heater is failing:
- Strange noises or smells from the unit
- Water leaks around the tank or pipe work
- Murky or discoloured hot water
- Signs of rust and corrosion
- Pilot light burning yellow
- Inconsistent water temperatures
- Lack of hot water
Hot water systems rarely fail all at once. There are usually warning signs that your system is struggling. As long as you’re paying attention, you can usually get away with minor repairs, rather than having to deal with the expense of replacing the entire unit.
Extending the Life of Your Water Heater
Replacing a hot water system is an expensive exercise. Between the new unit and the hot water installation, you can expect to pay $1,500 or more. If you want to avoid that then there are a few things you can do to extend the life of your water heater:
- Invest in regular maintenance – Having your hot water system serviced once per year can extend its life by years. Hot water maintenance is a quick and affordable process, and it can save you big down the line.
- Test the TPR valve – A TPR valve is designed to automatically open and vent water or steam to prevent damage to the tank. These valves become blocked by sediment and mineral deposits. To test yours, turn off the system and then open and close the valve a few times. A small amount of water should come out. If nothing comes out, book a plumbing appointment to have the issue looked at.
- Replace the anode rod – Most water heaters use metal heating elements submerged in the tank of water. This would normally cause corrosion, but water heaters contain anode rods that protect vital components from rust. The anode rod needs to be checked regularly and replaced every few years.
- Flush the tank – The dirt and minerals in water collect on the inside of your tank, eventually causing damage. A plumber should flush the tank and treat any mineral deposits once per year.