In general, a good-quality water heater and dedicated maintenance are better investments than a longer warranty. Longer warraties do not reflect better materials or workmanship. Most warranties limit cover to manufacturing defects, which will most probably appear within the first few years, and thus be covered by the short warranty.
A water heater can be quite an important investment, one whose failure is not only expensive but also detrimental to the workings of your home. Because of this, it makes sense to protect your water heater with a longer warranty, but whether this is worth it is actually debatable.
If your goal is to save money on water heater replacements and repairs, a longer warranty can help with this, but warranties can be particular about what they cover. In the end, better maintenance practices explained below, may be able to save you money on a warranty and on repairing or replacing your water heater.
You Are Buying the Longer Warranty
The difference between a less expensive warranty and a more expensive warranty is the length of time that they cover. A more expensive warranty covers a longer period of time while a less expensive warranty covers a shorter period of time.
The difference in warranty durations is not related to the quality of the appliance, so the only factors to consider when choosing between a shorter and a longer warranty are the prices and the length of time your water heater is protected by the warranty.
For a shorter warranty, your timeframe is most likely a few years shorter. If your water heater ends up outliving the warranty’s expiration date by a good amount of time, then you most likely save money on your shorter warranty.
It is possible, though, that your water heater needs to be replaced only a year after your warranty expires. A longer warranty would have covered this.
For these reasons, a cheaper but shorter warranty is often a gamble, where the purchaser can only hope that their water heater will either fail within the warranty period or last a few years outside of it.
A longer warranty would cover you for a longer period of time (usually for a few more years) but will be more expensive. If your water heater needs replacing within the allotted time, the expenses paid for the warranty often outweigh the price of replacing your water heater.
A longer warranty does not always have to be the more expensive option, especially if they are the only option.
For stainless steel models, the only option for a warranty is a longer period of time, for example, about 10 years. This cheaper long warranty is possible because it doesn’t cost the manufacturer more in most situations.
In the case of stainless steel models, the manufacturer can be confident that the water heater will last a longer time than a regular glass-lined water heater. This is because the reaction of the alloying agents in stainless steel with the water heater’s environment protects the metal from rusting, rather than causing rusting.
The alloys, such as molybdenum and chromium, form a thin and stable layer of metal oxide on the surface of the stainless steel. This barrier protects the metal from corrosion due to contact with oxygen and water.
A longer warranty offered by the manufacturer at no additional cost will rarely impact the manufacturer negatively since stainless steel water heaters are much more durable than standard glass-lined water heaters.
This longer warranty period can also protect you for longer against a pricey replacement if your water heater is somehow faulty. Stainless steel models are usually around $300-$400 more than glass-lined models, so this longer warranty comes with the more expensive option.
Warranties Are Limited
If you are experiencing issues with the water heater within its warranty time, unfortunately, you aren’t guaranteed a replacement.
If the water heater fails as a whole, it is likely that the manufacturer will replace the entire unit, but only if they find that the failure of the water heater is due to a factory error.
If the installation is not done professionally and maintenance procedures are not being followed as the manufacturer requires, it is likely that they will not claim the damage as their fault, and they will therefore not pay for the replacement. This can also occur if the professional installation was changed in some way.
A leaking tank will most likely be covered by the warranty, but the water damage that results from this leak will not be covered.
As far as individual parts of the water heater, they will only be replaced under the warranty if there was a manufacturing error. If the parts have broken due to natural wear or improper use, the warranty does not apply.
There is little need to worry about defective parts being discovered after the warranty has expired. Most defects are discovered within six years of buying the water heater, and it is common for the shortest warranty period to be six years.
What is covered by your warranty can also depend on if the warranty is full or limited. For example, for a six-year warranty, the first year may be full-warranty while the remaining five are limited-warranty.
The full warranty often covers either the repair or replacement of parts or the whole of the water heater. A full warranty also covers the hiring of in-home services for repair or replacement.
A limited warranty often covers the replacement of parts but not necessarily the repair and the hiring of a repair service. The cost of replacing the entire water heater, in the event of a leak, will also be covered but only within the warranty period.
Anode Rods Excluded From Warranty
The sacrificial anode rod is essential in lengthening the lifespan of a glass-lined water heater. Although their role is important, they are technically not an essential part of a water heater. The water heater will still function without an anode rod, even if this means that the water heater will have a shortened lifespan.
Although an anode rod can make a large difference in your water heater’s lifespan, it is not covered in your water heater warranty because it is not an essential part of keeping your water heater functional. Furthermore, it is their job to break down.
When your anode rod has failed and must be replaced, even if you are still within the timeframe of your warranty, you must pay for the anode rod as well as the installation if you would rather not do it yourself.
Although anode rods are not covered by water heater warranties, maintenance required for reaping the benefits of your warranty may include anode maintenance. For example, if your water heater is nonfunctional and leaking, but it is found that this is caused by not replacing your anode rod, the manufacturer can deny full payment or any payment at all towards replacing the water heater.
This is because the water heater failure is due to the anode rod failing and the tank of your water heater corroding as a result. This is not a manufacturing error but instead a user error, meaning that the manufacturer will not take full responsibility.
Extending the Life of a Water Heater
Rather than gambling with a shorter warranty or spending a decent amount of money on a longer warranty that you may not even need, routine maintenance and thoughtful planning can keep your water heater running for longer than most warranties cover.
Use an Anode Rod (Glass-Lined)
As mentioned above, a stainless steel model for a water heater does not require an anode rod to extend its lifetime. On the other hand, it is wise to install anode rods in glass-lined models.
Anode rods are made of magnesium, aluminum, or a zinc/aluminum alloy. These are more reactive materials than the steel of a water heater. Because of their higher reactivity, the anode is preferentially corroded rather than the steel of the tank.
The glass-lining in a glass-lined water heater is important because it protects the tank from oxygen and water that can oxidize its steel. This glass lining can fail, though, and the anode rod is then essential in protecting the metal of your water heater if and when it does.
Anode rods cost about $20 to $40 and can last up to five years. This makes them a relatively inexpensive way to increase the longevity of your water heater.
Replace Anode Rod Regularly
Installing an anode rod in your water heater is not a permanent solution to extending the life of your water heater. They must be routinely checked on and replaced as needed.
As the sacrificial anode rod begins to corrode, the corroded material gathers at the bottom of the water heater and is no longer of use as a sacrifice. This means that when the anode rod is completely corroded, it is no longer of use and the steel of your tank is in danger of corrosion.
When an anode rod has been completely corroded, the corroded material should sit at the bottom of the tank and only the inner steel wire will be seen.
It is recommended that you check on your anode rod every one to three years. Anode rods should be replaced when at least 50% of the anode rod has been corroded. The cost of the rod replacement is dependent on a number of factors but can range from $30-$40 plus time to $200-$300.
Flush the Tank Regularly
Other than the corrosion of the steel tank of your water heater, another problem that can shorten a water heater’s life is sediment accumulation.
- Accumulation of sediment at the bottom of your tank in natural gas water heaters can cause uneven heating. This uneven heating can cause leaks or even the falling out of the bottom of the water heater, which releases large amounts of dangerously hot water.
- In electric water heaters, sediment accumulation can break the lower heating element.
- No matter the type of water heater, sediment can clog the drain valve.
Each of these situations is damaging to your water heater and, in the case of a leak or the bottom falling out, they can damage your home as well.
Routine flushing of your water heater’s tank can prevent these things from happening. It is recommended to flush the tank every six months. If you have especially hard water, though, it is wise to flush it more often.
For safety reasons, it is critical to shut off your water heater before you flush it. This is because hot water that is being drained could damage a hose you are draining through or it can burn those near it if it splashes.
It is possible that the sediment can accumulate and then harden. In this situation, it may have to be scraped off since the draining of the tank will not flush it away for you.
Keep the Temperature Lower
Although your water heater is made to withstand high temperatures, higher temperatures than needed can decrease your water heater’s service life.
With higher temperatures comes the faster accumulation of sediment from hard water. This faster accumulation of sediment can lead to, as said above, leaks, clogging, and breaking of heating elements.
Not only are higher temperatures ideal for sediment accumulation, but higher temperatures also speed up chemical reactions, such as corrosion. The rate at which your tank rusts will increase with higher temperatures.
Factory settings for your water heater often set the temperature to about 140 °F. It has been found, though, that 120 °F is hot enough for warm showers and sanitary conditions.
Not only does lowering the temperature of your water heater increase its service life, but it can also come with safety and monetary benefits.
Your energy bills will be lower since your hot water heater accounts for about 20% of your energy bill. Lowering it just 20 °F can save you up to 10% on your monthly utility bills.
Keeping your water heater at a cooler temperature can also prevent accidental burns. This is especially important for young children since they are more likely to scald themselves when heating their shower or bath up too much.
Install in Protected Spot
The location your water heater is placed can either induce danger or make your water heater work harder, therefore shortening its lifespan, or your water heater can be protected and allowed to not work as hard, therefore increasing its longevity.
The placement of your water heater on an exterior wall is not only wise but is also supported by most local regulations. This makes room for the flue so that the water heater’s exhaust can be easily routed outside.
Because your water heater should be on an exterior wall, it is wise to install your water heater in the basement where there is more room for larger appliances.
Your water heater should also be placed in a location close to your kitchen and bathrooms since they use the most hot water in your home. Less traveling for the hot water ensures that energy is saved and that your water heater doesn’t have to work as hard. If your water heater has to work harder, it is likely that it will have decreased longevity.
It is advisable to limit the number of flammable objects near your water heater. Your water heater should also be placed on level ground since level ground is important for both gas and water flow.
Routine maintenance of your water heater is vital to its longevity, but maintenance is made harder when it is difficult to access your water heater and its access panels. To make essential maintenance easier, make sure your water heater is easily accessible.