Keeping a gas hot water heater efficient and working?

Greetings ~
I have had my 40g gas hot water heater since 1998, and I vauguely recall some cheap part that could be replaced every 5 years or so that would extend the life of the thing, but I can't remember what it was.
Also wondering what other steps I could take to make the heater last and make it more efficient. (I already have a blanket on it.)
Thanks,
Bluesman
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the part you may be remembering is the anode.
A good flushing every so often helps. The time period has to do with the water you have. Lots of minerals, more often.
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snipped-for-privacy@netscape.net wrote on 17 Nov 2005:

You might find this helpful:
http://www.dougboulter.com/repair/plumbing.htm#water_heaters1

Given that it's a 1998, the blanket probably isn't doing much beyond what you get from the built-in insulation.
You could insulate the hot water pipes near the heater, but that heat is lost to the air, so it's really heating your house and isn't lost (unless the heater is in an unheated attic or crawl space).
Finally, you could install a pump and a recirculation loop so that cold water in the hot water supply lines flows back to the water heater for re-heating. That doesn't make the heater more efficient, but you don't waste water running the faucet until the water coming out is warm--it's more a comfort and convenience thing.
--
Doug Boulter

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I installed an extra anode from the URL given here expecting to extend the life of a fairly new water heater. Also there are, recently available plastic lined nipples to connect between the tank and the supply and discharge lines which should minimize the common problems that occur with brass and steel nipples. If you install the anode cited in the referenced site, you will need only one, otherwise two.
http://www.waterheaterrescue.com/pages/WHRpages/English/OrderPages/PayPal/Standard-Combo-Magnesium-Anode.html
SJF
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i like this theory: if your water tank's location is warmer than the arriving water line temperature, a tank in series before the hot tank would permit free preheating of arriving cold water to the air temperature of the tank room. this will require your water heater to add a lesser differential of heat.
or, lots more to read at: http://www.greenhouse.gov.au/yourhome/technical/fs42.htm
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