Your water heater is one of many hard-working appliances in your home. Because it performs a vital function, you'll want your water heater to last as long as possible. According to home improvement expert Bob Vila, a tank-style water heater should last 8 to 12 years. If you want yours to last at least that long, take some steps to prolong its life expectancy.
Perform Maintenance Checks
Almost every important system in your home requires regular maintenance checks, and your water heater is no different. The main issue you're looking for is that the heater isn't leaking. Look at the joints in the pipework to ensure they're tightly joined and not letting any water through. If you see water, you might be able to just tighten the joints to solve the problem.
As part of your maintenance check, examine the pilot light. The flame should be strong and blue. Also, it should be lit. If it's gone out, you should try relighting it unless you smell gas — that situation requires calling the gas company. If the flame is flickering or yellow, you might have some issues with getting fuel to the fire — your call then should be to your local plumber.
Inspect, and Maybe Replace, the Anode Rod
Water contains minerals such as calcium that can settle in the bottom of your water tank, which causes corrosion of the lining. So, manufacturers build in a metal rod that attracts the minerals to keep them away from the tank liner. This rod, the anode rod, is more resistant to the corrosion, but it can wear out over time, which necessitates replacement.
You should see a nut or a plastic cap at the top of your water tank. If you see the cap, pry it away to reveal the nut. The nut is holding the anode rod in place. You can loosen it and thread the rod out of the tank. If you see corrosion and/or buildup, replace the rod with one from the hardware store. By replacing the rod, you can prevent a leak developing in the water heater from corrosion.
Drain the Sediment
Even if you're diligent with inspecting and replacing the anode rod, the minerals in your water will cause sediment. The sediment, of course, settles to the bottom of the tank. Not only does it corrode the liner, but the sediment also reduces the heater's efficiency. When the heater works overtime to compensate, the life of our whole appliance decreases.
So, about once a year, drain the tank. Look for the drain valve near the bottom of the tank. You should only have to drain two or three gallons of water to flush the sediments. However, keep draining until the water runs clear.
Follow the above steps to keep your water heater running well into the late years of its life expectancy.