My natural gas water heater leaks about 1/2 gallon of hot water through my TP valve every day. This started about a month ago. Last week I replaced the TP valve with one that had identical specs as the old one, and it still leaks. There is a thermal expansion tank installed just above the heater.
The replacement valve I installed is CashAcme 23577-0150. The valve indicates "500,000 BTU/hr (ASME) Max Heater Input" and the water heater plate indicates 750,000 BTU/hour so maybe I just need a higher-rated TP valve, but I want to make sure that I am understanding the ratings correctly before I try a valve that is rated differently than the one I took off originally. The new valve also says 105,000 BTU.
While I was replacing the TP valve and had the heater off and water disconnected, I tried to drain the heater using the drain valve at the bottom of the heater. I had a difficult time getting water to come out the drain. Perhaps the heater has accumulated some sediment and that is preventing the drain from working. The plate on the water heater indicates it is 18 years old. Perhaps this is reason enough to replace the heater.
I turned the water temperature down slightly and it didn't seem to make much difference. The temperature of the hot water at the faucet does feel less hot, but I didn't measure it with a thermometer. If I have installed the correct valve, my guess would be that the thermostat that controls the temperature may be faulty or not working properly. The unit has a "digital" style control with lights that indicate the desired temperature. Perhaps the problem is with the electronics or perhaps it may be with the temperature sensor/sending unit.
I am very confident in my ability to just replace the water heater, but obviously cost and time are a concern. How long should water heaters last? What steps can be taken to diagnose the issue? Are replacement parts typically easily available that would fix this problem? Should I just give up and replace the water heater at this point?