Maintaining a reliable hot water system is an essential part of staying comfortable at home. These routine tasks not only make a big difference to the lifespan of your appliances, they can significantly reduce your energy bills.

Most hot water maintenance tasks are best left to a qualified plumber Ipswich. Things like testing electrical components and fixing leaks aren’t DIY-friendly. But there are a few things you can do yourself to extend the life of your hot water system.

In this article we’ll cover everything you need to know about hot water system maintenance, and you can decide which tasks you’ll tackle yourself!

How Long Does a Hot Water System Last?

Hot water systems can be an expensive appliance. They’re relatively simple and rarely fail, but it’s still a good idea to keep yours alive for as long as possible.

One of the most common questions is about the longevity of modern systems. You can expect to get a good decade or more from most water heaters:

  • Tank water heaters – Traditional water heaters typically last around 10-15 years.
  • Tankless water heaters – Instantaneous water heaters often last 20 years or more.
  • Heat pump water heaters – Heat pump water heaters can have a lifespan of 10-15 years, but they may last much longer with maintenance.
  • Solar water heaters – Solar water heaters can last 20 years or more. They’re incredibly simple devices that have very few points of failure.

Note that hot water systems will only achieve their maximum lifespan if they’re regularly serviced by the homeowner or a qualified plumber. We’ll cover regular maintenance requirements below to see which jobs you can tackle yourself.

Factors Affecting the Lifespan of Hot Water Systems

Maintenance is important, but it’s not the only thing that affects the lifespan of hot water systems. If you want to get the longest life from your appliances, you’ll need to consider the following:

  1. Water quality – The quality of the water in your area can impact the lifespan of your hot water system. Hard water, which contains a high mineral content, can lead to scale buildup inside the tank or on the heating element, which can cause damage over time.
  2. Installation quality – Proper installation is crucial. Incorrect installation can lead to performance issues and premature wear and tear. Ensure your hot water system is installed according to the manufacturer’s specifications.
  3. Maintenance practices – Regular maintenance is key to prolonging the life of a hot water system. This involves flushing the tank, descaling components, checking for leaks and inspecting pressure relief valves.
  4. Temperature settings – Extremely high temperatures can accelerate the deterioration of the tank and heating elements. Setting the thermostat to a reasonable and energy-efficient temperature will preserve the system for longer.
  5. Usage patterns – The frequency and intensity of hot water usage in a household can impact the system’s lifespan. Systems that are constantly cycling on and off may experience more wear than those with more moderate usage patterns. Similarly, systems that are rarely used can also have a shorter lifespan.
  6. Local climate – Extreme temperatures in your local climate can affect the efficiency and workload of your hot water system. For example, a heat pump water heater may be less efficient in very cold climates. This would cause the components to work harder and wear out faster.
  7. Corrosion resistance – Corrosion can be a significant factor in the lifespan of a hot water system. Some systems come with features to resist corrosion, but exposure to corrosive elements can still affect longevity.

Hot Water System Maintenance Requirements

Most of us take our hot water systems for granted. They’re installed out of sight and out of mind, and we don’t think of them as long as the hot water keeps flowing. But, like other appliances, hot water heaters require regular maintenance to ensure they’re in good working condition.

It’s a good idea to book a regular maintenance appointment with a plumber. They’ll be able to inspect, test and clean the system, which helps to identify small problems before they turn into major issues.

During regularly scheduled maintenance, your plumber will:

  • Flush the tank – For traditional tank water heaters, sediment can accumulate at the bottom of the tank over time, reducing efficiency. Flushing the tank every 12 months helps remove this sediment.
  • Check the pressure relief valve – The pressure relief valve is a safety feature that releases excess pressure. Test the valve periodically to make sure it’s functioning correctly.
  • Inspect for leaks – Regularly check for leaks around the tank, connections, and valves. Address leaks to prevent water damage.
  • Descale internal components – Minerals (like calcium) will build up in your water heater during normal use. These deposits need to be descaled to improve efficiency.
  • Adjust temperature settings – Verify that the thermostat is set to a safe and energy-efficient temperature. Extremely high temperatures can accelerate wear on the system and increase energy consumption.
  • Inspect anode rods – Anode rods are sacrificial rods that help prevent tank corrosion. Regularly inspect and replace these rods if they are corroded.
  • Test the heating elements – For electric water heaters, testing the heating elements ensures they are functioning properly.

How Often Should You Have Your Hot Water System Serviced?

There is no set interval for hot water system maintenance, but we recommend every 12-24 months. Older systems may need to be serviced more often, and systems that work unusually hard may also need more attention.

Always refer to the manufacturer’s guidelines for your specific hot water system when determining maintenance requirements. If you have a service contract or warranty, it may include specific recommendations for servicing intervals.

Additionally, if you notice any issues such as reduced efficiency, strange noises or leaks, it’s advisable to call a plumber immediately. Regular maintenance can help prevent problems and ensure you aren’t hit with any surprise repair bills.