How to Maintain your Water Heater
It’s happened to all of us at least once: Turn on the shower and get a blast of cold water that never actually warms up. For others, they face a flood of water in the basement or gritty water flowing through the pipes. All of these are symptomatic of the same event: Water heater failure. Repairing a water heater is not often a good idea. Structural damage to the tank is often not worth fixing since it requires a tank replacement. Many components are also difficult or integral to how your water heater works. While most water heaters should last up to 10 years, water quality and use can reduce that. The best way to make sure that your water heater stays in top shape is to keep it maintained. That means:
- Testing the Pressure Vale
- Flushing the Tank
- Repairing Leaks and Drips
- Insulate Pipes and Tank
NOTE: Always wear protective gloves, goggles, and clothing when working on a water heater. The internal temperature is scalding and can cause serious harm if precautions are not taken in advance. If you are not 100% confident, then it is better to consult a professional for any maintenance or repairs.
How to Test Your Water Heater Pressure Valve
Whether your water heat is gas or electric, all tank water heaters have a temperature and pressure relief valve. This is a safety device that’s designed to vent at higher pressures to prevent tank over-pressurization which can lead to an explosion. Periodic testing to make sure that the valve is still working is ideal for safety and avoiding stress fractures from over-pressurized tanks and pipes.
- Turn off the electricity or gas to your water heater.
- Close the cold-water inlet to your water heater.
- Place a bucket under the pressure relief valve.
- Pull the trip lever on the valve. There will be a rush of air or a puff of water vapor. If you don’t see this, your valve is faulty and needs to be replaced (don’t forget to drain the tank before removing the valve for replacement).
How to Flush Your Water Heater Tank
Over time, dirt, sediment, and metal flakes will build up and settle inside your water tank. Not only does this have a negative effect on your water, it makes it more difficult to heat the water and can erode pipes, connections, and appliances. Draining your tank twice a year (or every three months if possible) is the best way to remedy the situation.
- Turn off power or gas to the heater and shut off the cold-water inlet.
- Connect a garden hose to the water tank’s drain valve and place the other end in an area that can handle scalding-hot water.
- Open the pressure relief valve, followed by the drain valve and allow the tank to drain completely. This draining is what allows the sediment to flow out of the tank so make sure the tank is completely empty before you stop.
- Close the drain valve, disconnect the hose, and close the relief valve.
- Open all hot-water spigots in your home.
- Turn on the cold-water inlet for your water heater (do not turn power or gas back on).
- Close each hot-water spigot in your home as water begins to flow from it. Do not turn on power to your tank until after you have shut off all of the hot-water spigots.
- Turn on your water heater.
Be sure you wait to turn on your water heater until all spigots have been turned off. This is to ensure that your water tank has filled before you engage the heating elements inside. It’s especially important for electric water heaters which have an upper heating element that can burn out if water has not filled the tank yet.
Hot Tips for Hot Water
- Set your thermostat to 120 degrees – the lower temperature will save on money without risking the quality of your water (do not set it lower than this, ever)
- Insulate hot water pipes and your water heater to prevent heat loss and improve efficiency
- Keep at least two feet of clearance around the water heater
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