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Sweetwater Plumbing Blog

Corrosion on a Water Heater: Time to Replace It?

water-heaterAs professional plumbers who work on everything from small leaks in homes to large scale commercial plumbing installations, we’re used to encountering one of the biggest enemies of all plumbing systems: corrosion. Corrosion is a chemical reaction between water and metal in the presence of oxygen, resulting in a weakening of the metal. There are different types of corrosion, but rust is the most familiar. No matter the type, corrosion is straight up bad news for metal because it eats into it and eventually causes it to flake away. (In fact, the word corrosion comes from the Latin word meaning “to gnaw.” Corrosion gnaws away at metal.)

The tank water heater in your home is an appliance that is in danger of corrosion because of the contact between metal and water. But, you’ve probably noticed, the water heater is quite resistant to corrosion. That’s because models are designed this way, with a number of safeguards to stop the tank or other components from beginning to rust.

However, corrosion can still affect a water heater. When that happens, does that mean it’s time to have the water heater replaced?

Yes, Usually It Does

Although there are some exceptions, when corrosion begins on the exterior or interior of a water heater, it needs to be retired and a new water heater installed. There isn’t any repair that can be done to fix this that would be less expensive than simply getting a new system. If the corrosion is simply left alone, the water heater will soon start to leak, leading to major (and expensive) water damage in your home.

Thankfully, corrosion is usually only an issue on an extremely old water heater, so when it starts to happen it’s a sign of the system’s age. A water heater that’s more than 15 years old is due for a replacement anyway, and rust is a way of the system telling you it’s time to get rid of it.

What about the exceptions? Rust that starts on the heat exchanger or the gas burners of a water heater can often be repaired—if caught soon enough—by replacing these parts. If connection points in a water heater start to leak, the water will drip onto the burners and heat exchanger and allow for corrosion. If you keep up with regular maintenance for the system (this is a must if you want to get a long service life from it) these problems will be caught early before they can spread.

Always Look to Water Heater Experts

When in doubt about corrosion, call professional plumbers for an informed opinion and the best options for moving forward.

Our water heater professionals are skilled with all types of jobs your home may require: we’ll repair your ailing water heater or take care of a replacement. We also work with tankless water heaters and heat pump water heaters. No matter what service you need done for a water heater in Fullerton, CA or elsewhere in our wide service area, you can always depend on us—because we’re always open for business!

Sweetwater Plumbing offers 24-hour emergency plumbing service throughout Southern California.

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