So, we’ve lived in this house for 4 years and never actually got around to draining the water heater or having someone come in and do it. It’s one of those things you just don’t think about–even though we know we have extremely hard water here in our village.
We called our village plumber and he came over to drain it and clean it out. This is what his special shop vac thing looked like when he was done:
Yup–see all that goop? That was FLAKES of calcium deposit from our water. There were several INCHES of it in the vac. The sediment had actually come up high enough to interfere with the heating element, which had then burned out. The plumber said that the only reason we hadn’t been taking cold showers is we have a large water heater (80 gallons), so it has two heating elements, one at the top, one at the bottom. The poor element at the top had been doing double time and sucking a lot of extra electricity trying to keep the whole 80 gallons warm. . .basically running nonstop.
And we HAVE noticed that the water is hotter now.
Keeping the various equipment that runs your home (think water heater, furnace, central AC etc) in good working condition with preventative maintenance is usually much less expensive than paying for repairs or replacements. From now on we are going to make sure to drain (and flush) the water heater ourselves at least once a year (maybe twice would be better) to keep it from getting too bad.
This Old House has a video on How to Flush a Water Heater (they didn’t make it so I could embed it, so I’m just linking it here). If you’ve never flushed it you might want to consider having a professional do it the first time and then just take on the ongoing maintenance after that. I don’t think we would have gotten all the crud out of ours if we had done it ourselves.
And by the way–if you have a water heater, then you always have some water stored in your home! In the case of an emergency (think floods, hurricanes, blizzards etc)–it’s kind of nice to know that you’ve got a big old tank of water just sitting there in your basement. Of course, it would be helpful if you had an idea of how to go about accessing that water BEFORE you are in a situation where you might need it. . .