Does Rust on a Water Heater Mean It Must Be Replaced?

Does Rust on a Water Heater Mean It Must Be Replaced?

Rust and other forms of corrosion weaken metal and cause it to decay. It’s rarely a good thing to have rust occur, and this is true for water heaters. You don’t want to see rust developing on any part of your home’s water heater.

But how serious is water heater corrosion? You may have heard that conventional wisdom is that when a water heater starts to show signs of rust, the whole unit needs to be replaced. There is some truth to this, but it isn’t the whole story. Below we’ll look closer at the issue of rust and your water heater.

Rust Prevention in a Water Heater

Corrosion like rust occurs when metal is in contact with water in the presence of oxygen. Since water heaters are metal and contain water, it would see they would rust easily and quickly. But this isn’t the case. Water heaters can work for many years before any rust appears, and the reason is that manufacturers build water heaters specifically to resist corrosion:

  • Water heaters have glass-lined tanks to lessen contact between the water and metal walls.
  • The tank is kept oxygen-free.
  • A device called the anode rod that runs down the center of the water heater draws corrosion to it rather than the rest of the water heater, sacrificing itself to rust.

These measures help a water heater run for years without rusting—although lack of regular maintenance can foil these protections. For example, the anode rod needs to be replaced every few years after it rusts through or else corrosion will start to take hold early.

Rust on an Old Water Heater

If you have a water heater that’s more than 12 years old and you start to see rust or other types of corrosion on it, then the best route is to replace it. This corrosion is a sign that the water heater is too old and is ready for a replacement regardless. Even if repairs could fix the corrosion, it’s not worth it to keep an aging water heater that’s prone to corrosion around—it won’t last much longer.

When Rust Can Be Repaired

If you see corrosion on a newer water heater, you might be able to have heating repair in Bensalem, PA that will fix it. It depends on where the corrosion is. If the corrosion is restricted to the heat exchanger or at connection points, then it’s possible to replace those parts before the corrosion spreads elsewhere. (The repairs may still be expensive, in which case a replacement is a better option). However, rust that appears on the tank of the water heater usually means the water heater is finished.

You can also notice when rust occurs inside the tank if you see a reddish discoloration coming from your hot water taps. There are several possible causes of this discoloration, but if it does come from rust, it means the tank has already rusted extensively inside and needs to be replaced.

When you need water heater service, contact Dowd Mechanical Heating & Air Conditioning—A Degree Above the Rest.

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