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Aging hot water tank may need more than just a tune-up

QuestionI have read your articles about water heater maintenance with increasing dismay. I am now a 77-year-old arthritic woman, but I became a homeowner when I moved here 11 years ago. I have never drained the hot water tank and now I don't feel I can do it. There isn't room for a pan underneath the tank. Although I am on a limited income, I would be willing to pay someone to do this, but who should I call—a plumber? I would appreciate some advice in this matter.

AnswerThanks for your letter. Regular readers of my articles know that I have written several times about draining and maintaining gas and electric water heaters. These articles were not intended to discourage readers but rather to point out that a water heater is an appliance that needs occasional attention in order to prolong its life.

Since your tank is over 11 years old and has never had any maintenance during that time, it's long overdue. Water heaters lasting 20 or 30 years are a thing of the past. It's possible that yours could last that long, but most carry a 5- to 10-year warranty and are designed to last during that warranty period plus a day. It's planned obsolescence and job security: manufacturers are in business to sell water heaters and plumbers are in business to install them!

A plumber would be able to evaluate the condition of your hot water tank. I suggest you consult the Yellow Pages and look for a plumber with the smallest ad. I also advise that you check with your local Better Business Bureau and ask the plumber for references. Then follow through and call those references. With any luck, your tank may just need the sediment removed from the bottom.

Copyright © 2004, 2006, & 2008 LAF/C.R.S., Inc. All rights reserved.
Question answered by Leon A. Frechette.

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