Water Heater Sediment – The Truth About Aging Water Heaters

Reading Time: 5 minutes
A 25 year old Water Heater Sediment

If your water heater is older, you could be showering and washing dishes in dirty water

Water heaters are essential to our daily lives, providing the hot water we need for everything from showers to dishwashing. However, many homeowners are unaware of the issues that can arise as water heaters age, particularly the buildup of water heater sediment. In this post, we’ll walk you through the truth about aging water heaters and the impact of sediment buildup, offering practical advice on how to manage and prevent it.

Understanding Water Heater Sediment

Water heater sediment is composed of minerals, rust, and other debris that accumulate at the bottom of the tank over time. This sediment often comes from the water supply itself, as well as from internal corrosion within the heater. While it may seem harmless, sediment buildup can lead to a host of problems if not addressed.

Effects of Sediment Buildup

The presence of sediment in your water heater can significantly reduce its efficiency. As sediment accumulates, it creates a barrier between the water and the heating element, causing the heater to work harder and consume more energy. This results in longer heating times and higher energy bills.

Moreover, sediment can cause damage to your water heater and fixtures throughout your home. It promotes corrosion and rusting, which can shorten the lifespan of your water heater and other appliances. The small particles build up over time as they flow through your system and fixtures, eventually causing the internal parts of your faucets to clog and corrode.

Additionally, sediment can affect water quality. When you have sediment build up in your water heater, you are showering and washing your dishes in dirty water. Because this sediment is diluted, it may be difficult to see with the naked eye, but nothing is standing between your family and the sediment at the bottom of your water heater.

Signs Your Water Heater Has Sediment Buildup

How can you tell if your water heater has sediment buildup? Here are some common signs:

  • Age: If your water heater is older, especially if it has never been flushed, it likely has sediment
  • Noises: Popping or rumbling sounds from the water heater.
  • Temperature Fluctuations: Inconsistent water temperatures.
  • Reduced Hot Water Supply: A noticeable decrease in the amount of available hot water.
  • Visible Sediment: Sediment is visible in the water when draining the heater.

Preventing Sediment Buildup

Regular maintenance is key to preventing sediment buildup in your water heater. A professional plumber has the specialized tools and knowledge to complete an important water heater maintenance service.
A complete maintenance service includes:

  • Flushing the Water Heater: Flushing a water heater sounds simple, but it’s very easy to break your water heater’s boiler drain, and the potential for flooding the area around your water heater is high. A water heater with a good deal of sediment may clog as it’s draining. If you do plan to attempt to flush your water heater yourself, be sure to turn off the water and gas or electricity as a first step. You should also consider purchasing a specialized pump to assist in the draining down of your water heater.
  • Inspecting the Anode Rod: The anode rod helps prevent corrosion inside the tank. Over time, this rod wears away and is no longer effective. To stop your water heater from corroding from the inside, you should replace this anode rod once it begins to show wear. Plumbers have a specialized tool to remove the old rod from the water heater and replace it.
  • Testing the Expansion Tank: An expansion tank, which is required by code in many states, including Georgia, is an important component of your water heater that absorbs the pressure created by thermal expansion. As these tanks age, they can stop working, leaving your system exposed to high pressure. High pressure can shorten the life of your plumbing fixtures, void warranties, and cause leaks or flooding.
  • Reading the Pressure: A thorough plumber will also check the psi of your plumbing system during water heater maintenance. The water supply from the city is highly pressurized, as this allows the water to reach all of the homes it needs to reach. But if that water were to flow through the pipes in your home at that level, you’d have leaks and malfunctioning appliances. A pressure regulating valve, or PRV, reduces the water pressure as the water enters your home, bringing it down to that sweet spot that allows for refreshing showers while preventing damage to your plumbing system. While PRVs can be adjusted to some degree, if the water pressure in your home is over 80 psi, your PRV is likely no longer functioning and should be replaced.
  • Checking the T&P: The temperature and pressure (or T&P) line is a small pipe that runs from your water heater to a drain or the outside of your home. If your plumbing system experiences high pressure, this line exists to relieve that pressure. This relief line is designed to carry water out of your home rather than forcing it to find another area of escape by leaking. A plumber can check to be sure this important safety feature of your plumbing system is working properly. If you see water coming from this line, that’s a sign that you have a plumbing problem and you should contact a plumbing professional for help.

Solutions for Sediment Buildup

  • Regular Water Heater Flushes: While homeowners can perform a general flush of their water heaters, hiring a professional plumber is highly recommended. Professionals have the expertise to:
    • Avoid flooding your home.
    • Prevent damage to the water heater drain.
    • Effectively remove excessive sediment that gravity alone can’t handle.
    • Inspect the water heater for safety issues and check the anode rod for deterioration.
  • Installing a Water Filtration System: Water heater flushes are an important part of home maintenance, but their effectiveness is limited. There’s no way to completely remove all sediment from a water heater, especially if it has built up over time. The best way to prevent water heater sediment buildup is to filter the sediment out of the water as soon as the water enters your home. This protects both your water heater and fixtures. Systems like the Halo H2 Zero are excellent solutions for preventing sediment buildup. These systems:
    • Filter out debris before it reaches your water heater.
    • Improve overall water quality.
    • Require professional installation and regular maintenance to ensure optimal performance.

When to Replace an Aging Water Heater

Knowing when to replace your water heater is crucial. Assess the age and condition of your unit regularly. Signs that it might be time for a replacement include:

  • Frequent repairs and breakdowns.
  • A significant drop in efficiency despite maintenance efforts.

Upgrading to a new water heater offers numerous benefits, including improved energy efficiency and enhanced performance and reliability. It may be more cost-effective to replace your water heater, as aging water heaters often require a flush, a new anode rod, a new expansion tank, and a new temperature and pressure relief valve.

Sediment buildup in water heaters is a common issue that can reduce efficiency, damage the unit, and impact water quality. If you need professional water heater maintenance or are considering replacing your aging unit, contact our expert team today.

Hey, guys, this is Stevie again with Aaron Services: Plumbing, Heating, Cooling. We’re out of Suwanee, Georgia. Just wanted to show people how, you know, your water heater is, to the max, ruined probably five to ten years ago. So this is a 25 year old water heater. It actually has an install date on that, but it’s a 1999. This is what comes out of the water heaters. When you don’t flush your water heaters every two years, you’re going to get sediment that builds up and builds up and builds up. This one had so much. I took this out and actually had to drill a hole in the side. As you can see, this is a super old one. This is what you’re showering in. This actually mixes with the cold water so you don’t really see the residue. It’s kind of like putting a dye in a pool. You can put dye in, but once it dies, starts getting with all the water, it’s going to dilute and you don’t see it. But this is super typical. It’s either going to be creamy brown or it’s going to be black. And if it’s black or it looks like this, you are on super borrowed time. You need to change it out. It’s not us trying to sell you a water heater, anything like that. It’s that you’re going to get something that is going to flood your basement.