Tank water heaters are one of the most frequently used appliances in your home. Yet, they’re easily forgotten—out of sight, out of mind. And that means any problems that arise with them are easily overlooked.
One such problem is that of water heater sediment. This is an easily fixable problem, but one that can sneak up on you and cause massive damage to the heater if not addressed routinely. We’ll explain further down below.
What is Sediment, and How Does it Form?
To answer that question, you first have to know what hard water is. You’ve most likely heard the term before and are familiar with some of the complaints surrounding it: it can leave soap scum on your glass and utensils, dry out your skin, turn your clothes dull and scratchy, and more.
More specifically, hard water is water that’s defined as having a large mineral content. While water will flow through several kinds of minerals before making it to the municipal treatment, the two minerals that will stubbornly refuse to dissolve are magnesium and calcium. But once that water is exposed to the high temperature of the water heater, it turns those minerals into scale, which ends up as the water sediment at the bottom of your tank.
Water heaters in Phoenix, AZ are especially susceptible, since it’s one of the states in the nation with the highest concentration of hard water.
Why Does it Need to Be Removed?
A little bit of water heater sediment isn’t going to cause substantial damage to the tank. However, problems can develop when the sediment begins building up.
- Concerning Noises: Sediment can create popping or cracking noises. This is a result of air bubbles popping from underneath the sediment. Although not harmful on its own, you should take it as a signal to have the sediment taken care of.
- Reduced Efficiency: As the sediment builds, it forms a layer between the heating elements and the water itself. This forms an insulator that will make it take longer to heat the water, and that can lead to an increase in heating costs.
- Risk of Creating Leaks: Pockets of high temperatures can form beneath the sediment. They can even become hot enough to burn a hole through the tank, thus rendering your water heater useless.
What Can You Do About It?
We’ve established that sediment isn’t a good thing, but what are you supposed to do about it? Luckily, there’s an easy solution: having the tank flushed.
Flushing the tank isn’t difficult, but the average homeowner isn’t going to be able to do much beyond that. That’s why we recommend having a water heater flush done at the same time as a maintenance check. A professional will be able to do it for you while inspecting the tank for damages or signs of corrosion.
The second thing you can do is reduce the amount of sediment buildup by installing a water softener. These systems use sodium in a chemical process that removes a majority of the hard water minerals. But even with that, sediment will still gradually buildup through the water heater.