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How to Extend the Life of Your Hot Water Tank

Hot water system maintenance

Don’t take hot showers for granted – keep your hot water happy by performing a couple minutes maintenance a year!

Sydney Homeowners: Don’t blow it all on a hot water tank


If you’re a homeowner with a hot water heater, you may have convinced yourself that maintenance on these wonderful devices would only occur very rarely – if ever.

Sure, you could get about a decade of perfect work out of a hot water heater – a decade is a long time indeed. However, by undertaking just a few minutes of maintenance a year, you can extend your hot water tank’s lifespan and maintain its efficiency and safety rating.

Think about it this way: it’s easy to overlook the luxury of the hot water system – used for washing up, cooking and showering – until it fails, just when you’ve hopped into the shower on a cold winter’s morning and every plumber in town has serendipitously gone on holiday.

When planning maintenance on your hot water system, you need to consider the sacrificial anode and the temperature and pressure relief valve (TPR valve).

The sacrificial anode is a metal rod that hands down inside the hot water tank, normally made from aluminium or magnesium and is coated in zinc. It is designed to attract minerals and impurities in the water, which would otherwise react with the inside of the tank and cause it to rust and deteriorate. True to its name, the rod slowly rusts and degrades, thus sacrificing its own life for the greater good of the water tank. It’s important to replace the sacrificial anode as necessary to ensure that minerals and impurities don’t build up in the water inside the tank. In most cases, they will only need to be replaced once every five years. Failing to replace a sacrificial anode when necessary is probably the biggest single cause of hot water tank failure.

It is important to note that replacing the sacrificial anode is not a DIY job – you should hire a qualified plumber to service the system and replace the sacrificial anode for you.

The temperature and pressure relief (TPR) valves are fitted to hot water tanks as a secondary safety measure – the valves ‘vent’ hot water if the temperature or pressure of the water in the tank gets too high, to prevent splitting or exploding. To see whether the TPR valve requires replacing, you can test it yourself – if the valve is already leaking water through the outlet pipe, it will need replacing.

  • Ensure that you are wearing long pants, covered shoes and gloves to protect yourself from any spurts of hot water that may come out of the tank.
  • Check that the area beneath the outlet pipe from the TPR valve is clear and free from obstruction.
  • Make sure that you’re standing as far away as possible from the end of the pipe, then gently lift the handle on the TPR valve. If you face resistance, don’t force the handle – this indicates that it may need replacing. If there is no resistance from the valve handle, very hot water will flow out from the end of the outlet pipe.
  • Return the valve to its closed position – the flow of water should stop. If it doesn’t, this indicates that the valve isn’t working reliably and should be replaced.

The general rule of thumb in regards to testing your TPR valve is to do it every six months. If you find that your TPR valve does require replacing, contact an experienced plumber in your area to do the job for you.


Geoff James
Written By:

Geoff grew up in Berala near Lidcombe in Sydney and attended Birrong Boys High School where he finished his Year 10 school certificate. Geoff was encouraged by his uncle to consider plumbing as he had done a bit of plumbing work on weekends during his school years. DJ Childs Plumbing in Canterbury offered him a plumbing apprenticeship and he spent most of his time working on plumbing maintenance and new roofs on commercial sites. Geoff on Google+.