A water heater is often an appliance that works in the background -- you don't give it much thought until it fails. Knowing how the heater is likely to fail can help you avoid surprises.
The most common reason for water heater failure is when sediment builds up in the tank, eventually crusting over eating elements and other important mechanics inside your water heater. The cause is the mineral sediments in hard water. Flushing the tank annually and installing a water softener can prevent sedimentation from shortening the life of your water heater.
2. Poor Air Circulation
All too often water heaters are shoved into small utility nooks or closets where there is very little ventilation or air circulation. Gas heaters require decent airflow for proper combustion, otherwise, the burners are likely to work poorly and eventually become damaged. Electric heaters require airflow and ventilation so they don't overheat. If there is poor airflow in your utility closet, it is worth it to install a vent fan.
3. Sizing Issues
The size of your water heater matters. Using an overly small heater means it had to work harder and expend more energy heating tanks of water, which shortens its service life. Make sure the heater you choose fits the size of your household as well as your hot water usage patterns. It can be worth it to pay a bit more for a larger tank as opposed to constantly repairing or replacing a less expensive smaller tank.
4. Water Pressure
Most people want high water pressure in their homes, but there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. When the pressure coming into the heater is too high, it puts stress on the water lines, connections, and valves inside your heater. This makes leaks and valve failures more likely. If the water pressure coming into your home is exceptionally high, a plumber can solve the problem by installing a pressure regulator on your water main.
5. Age and Maintenance
Older water heaters are naturally more likely to fail compared to a newer model, and a lack of maintenance only speeds the process. Scheduling annual maintenance, including flushing, heating element replacement, and valve checks can prolong the life of an older water heater. Regular maintenance also lets you know in advance when you need to start shopping for a newer model so you won't be surprised when your old tank fails.
Contact a residential water heater repair service if your unit seems in danger of failing.