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Old 03-17-2009, 11:52 AM   #1
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hot water heater annual maintenance: a word to the wise


The manufacturer of the hot water heater we have specifies an annual maintenance check of the sacrificial anode inside the tank. This service may involve draining the tank [it depends on the model and where access is situated] and examining the anode to see that there's enough of it remaining to do its job, and replacing a gasket. Failure to service the anode can void the warranty. If the water tank fails, and the anode is depleted, the customer is up the creek without a paddle. And that creek will be flowing in their basement.

Now, try finding a maintenance organization that will do this service! Many will tell you there's no such thing as annual maintenance on water heaters. Why is this the case? Is it ignorance? Or are the motives more nefarious? The customer is the one who gets the raw end of the deal in this situation, whatever the reason.

I'm giving the manufacturer of my water heater a chance to rectify this situation from their end: they need to educate their distributors and third-party maintenance organizations about the need to perform this annual check. If the manufacturer does not address this, I'm going to name names. They can decide how important their reputation is to them. I want to see a bulletin, as well as a page on their website devoted to this annual service.

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Old 03-17-2009, 12:05 PM   #2
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hot water heater annual maintenance: a word to the wise


Never seen that as being an issue. If the tank leaks within the warranty all manufactures will replace it. In over 20 years in this business I have never been asked if the customer has maintened the water heater in the way you described.

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Old 03-17-2009, 12:23 PM   #3
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hot water heater annual maintenance: a word to the wise


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Never seen that as being an issue. If the tank leaks within the warranty all manufactures will replace it.
Perhaps in your experience.

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Originally Posted by ironrange View Post
In over 20 years in this business I have never been asked if the customer has maintened the water heater in the way you described.
The requirement is stated (although not always in very clear terms) in the owners manual. If it's not a requirement, the language should be removed. Here's a paraphrased example of situations that void the warranty:

failure to make sure the tank is free of sediment or scale,
failure to inspect the sacrificial anode at the specified time interval

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Old 03-17-2009, 12:56 PM   #4
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hot water heater annual maintenance: a word to the wise


The anode rod in the tank should last as long as the tank warranty. How long the tank will last after the anode is depleted ?? who knows. If the tank fails within warranty period ( in my experence) it is covered
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Old 03-17-2009, 02:40 PM   #5
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hot water heater annual maintenance: a word to the wise


Quote:
Originally Posted by diy888 View Post
I'm giving the manufacturer of my water heater a chance to rectify this situation from their end: they need to educate their distributors and third-party maintenance organizations about the need to perform this annual check. If the manufacturer does not address this, I'm going to name names. They can decide how important their reputation is to them. I want to see a bulletin, as well as a page on their website devoted to this annual service.
I'm sure they are shaking in their boots
This is usually a CYA on the part of the MFG
With an oil fired water heater I did have annual maintenace, he would also drain the tank & refill. Since switching to an electric I now drain the tank myself to check for sediment
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Old 03-17-2009, 04:35 PM   #6
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hot water heater annual maintenance: a word to the wise


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Originally Posted by Scuba_Dave View Post
I'm sure they are shaking in their boots
This is usually a CYA on the part of the MFG
With an oil fired water heater I did have annual maintenace, he would also drain the tank & refill. Since switching to an electric I now drain the tank myself to check for sediment
I suppose you haven't heard of "the power of the internet" ;-)

The warranty of the mfgr who made my water heater and furnace states that the servicing must be done by a trained technician. But I'm OK with that -- it means someone could earn their living doing this job. You can't offshore hot-water-heater servicing.
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Old 03-17-2009, 06:15 PM   #7
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hot water heater annual maintenance: a word to the wise


Checking the anode rod is a proper maintenance item. The fact it is sacrificial or depletable means it should be replaced when it is gone. A homeowner should have the discipline to make sure that tasks like this get done.

If you don't check the anode rod regularly, it could get rusted on and when you finally try to unscrew it, the whole tank turns and snaps off the gas feed down below possibly causing an explosion.

Usually the rod will last for the warranty period but in some areas the water is so acidic that the rod eats away sooner.
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Old 03-18-2009, 08:20 AM   #8
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hot water heater annual maintenance: a word to the wise


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Checking the anode rod is a proper maintenance item. The fact it is sacrificial or depletable means it should be replaced when it is gone. A homeowner should have the discipline to make sure that tasks like this get done.
My warranty requires that the maintenance be carried out by a trained technician, or the warranty is void. That's why I was p*ssed that it was so difficult to find a service organization willing to drain the unit, document the anode's condition, and replace the port gasket. But for those hot water heaters where the anode is owner-serviceable, I agree: the discipline to check it annually or bi-annually can prolong the life of the unit.
Water is one of the most aggressive solvents on the planet.

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Originally Posted by kenmac
The anode rod in the tank should last as long as the tank warranty. How long the tank will last after the anode is depleted ?? who knows. If the tank fails within warranty period ( in my experence) it is covered.
It is not necessarily true that the (replaceable!) sacrificial anode will last the lifetime of the warranty; its lifespan depends on the quality of the local water. Soft water can accelerate metal loss; hard water can result in scale deposits that insulate the anode from the battery-effect, impeding its self-sacrifice, so that the tank itself suffers the effect. An anode that lasts 20 years in one community might last only 7 in another.

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Old 03-18-2009, 08:24 AM   #9
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hot water heater annual maintenance: a word to the wise


Quote:
Originally Posted by AllanJ View Post
Checking the anode rod is a proper maintenance item. The fact it is sacrificial or depletable means it should be replaced when it is gone. A homeowner should have the discipline to make sure that tasks like this get done.

If you don't check the anode rod regularly, it could get rusted on and when you finally try to unscrew it, the whole tank turns and snaps off the gas feed down below possibly causing an explosion.

Usually the rod will last for the warranty period but in some areas the water is so acidic that the rod eats away sooner.
I would always shut off the gas (or electric) before doing any work on the tank.

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Old 03-18-2009, 08:27 AM   #10
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hot water heater annual maintenance: a word to the wise


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It is not necessarily true that the (replaceable!) sacrificial anode will last the lifetime of the warranty; its lifespan depends on the quality of the local water.

That's's why I used the word should last.The manfacture is going to install an anode large enough that they think will atleast last through the warranty period. They don't want to give away a new water heater every xx trs
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Old 03-18-2009, 10:02 AM   #11
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hot water heater annual maintenance: a word to the wise


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That's's why I used the word should last.The manfacture is going to install an anode large enough that they think will atleast last through the warranty period. They don't want to give away a new water heater every xx trs
Sure, it's reasonable to expect a mfgr to size the anode to handle average water conditions and even more aggressive water conditions for the length of the warranty period. But it's an inexact science because water conditions vary greatly by locale. To handle the most aggressive situations, they'd be using an anode that would be overkill for the less aggressive or even average situations. There's also scale buildup and sediment to be reckoned with, apart from anode depletion.

But let's say the mfgr is willing to provide a replacement unit even though they could, contractually, avoid having to do so because the owner has been neglectful: the typical warranty will not cover the cost of installation. Depending upon the particulars of the water heater (e.g. some sit below the furnace rather than beside it) installation of a replacement could be a lot more expensive than the cumulative cost of the annual routine maintenance. People can do what they want, of course, and calculate their own odds.

My original point was that it was not easy for this particular owner to live up to his end of the bargain because the company that sold me the hot water heater does not service them (they only service the furnace) and other service organizations I spoke with were telling me there was no such thing as routine maintenance on hot water heaters. That's clearly not what the manufacturer says.

I was able to speak yesterday with the manager of technician training at the company who made my unit, and was told that they're working to increase their "factory authorized technicians" network because so many independent installers and service organizations insist on doing things "the way they've always done them" (or more accurately, they way they've always not done them) in spite of the manufacturer's specific recommendations and requirements.
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Old 03-18-2009, 10:40 AM   #12
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hot water heater annual maintenance: a word to the wise


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other service organizations I spoke with were telling me there was no such thing as routine maintenance on hot water heaters. That's clearly not what the manufacturer says.


I know what you are saying about routine maintaince. Every x # of years you should check the T&P valve( for sticking) drain sediment from the drain cock at the bottom of the tank & check anode rod... The fact is no one or not many people do this anymore. If someone called me today & wanted me to perform this maintaince on their WH. I would take the call & as many of these as I could get.... I'am in it to make the $ so, why not. I can't understand anyone not wanting to mke this type of service call
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Old 03-18-2009, 11:44 AM   #13
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hot water heater annual maintenance: a word to the wise


To my way of thinking, if you need to have a "licensed tech" do this maintenance check once per year, you could replace the whole unit every 6 or 7 years and still be money ahead. Most will charge you for a minimum of one hour for the service call. Doubtful the tank could be drained, flushed and the anode rod removed and replaced in that amount of time. Depending on where you live, this could be between $100 and $200. You didn't mention the manufacturers name, but I would be getting my units from someone else. This whole warranty sounds more like a way for the company to get out of replacing their product than building a good unit.
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Old 03-18-2009, 02:24 PM   #14
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hot water heater annual maintenance: a word to the wise


Did it say empty the whole tank as part of the service procedure?

For checking the anode rod you only need to drain out a few gallons, enough so when all the water in the pipes upstairs comes down when you take off the anode, it doesn't spill out onto the basement floor.

I suggest letting sediment drain by gravity. Turn off the gas or electricity to the heater. Don't use hot water for several hours. Then turn off the water supply, open a hot water faucet upstairs, and then open the tank drain all the way. Have a big enough bucket so you don't have to stop and start the drain flow several times. You should not need to drain more than five gallons before the water runs clear.

If the manufacturer doesn't have affordable authorized technicians in the area, I doubt if their warranty rules would stand up.
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Old 03-19-2009, 08:07 AM   #15
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To my way of thinking, if you need to have a "licensed tech" do this maintenance check once per year, you could replace the whole unit every 6 or 7 years and still be money ahead. Most will charge you for a minimum of one hour for the service call. Doubtful the tank could be drained, flushed and the anode rod removed and replaced in that amount of time. Depending on where you live, this could be between $100 and $200. You didn't mention the manufacturers name, but I would be getting my units from someone else. This whole warranty sounds more like a way for the company to get out of replacing their product than building a good unit.
We don't have gas service in my neighborhood, so it was oil or electric. Since I despise the local electric company, it was going to be oil. I didn't have much time to spend on research and comparison, and went with an oil furnace recommended by the heating oil company, who assured me it was a very well-regarded brand. I haven't read anything to the contrary.

The annual service contract I've arranged ($110) will entail draining the tank, checking it for scale and sediment, checking the anode, and replacing a gasket.

My mom's very simple free-standing 40-gal water heater failed last week, and the labor estimates to reinstall it were in the $500 range. The labor costs to replace my water tank would probably be $2000+ because it sits below the furnace. I did not stop to think about the downsides of this arrangement, and was focusing mainly on the space-economy in the basement: it gave me more room for a workbench.

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