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Hot Water Heater Maintenance: What You Can (and Can’t) Do on Your OwnJuly 14th, 2023 by
Most of us tend to take our hot water heaters for granted. We switch on the sink or shower faucet and enjoy as much hot water as we like. However, your water tank will not last as long without regular water heater maintenance.
From flushing the tank to checking certain elements of the system, you can dramatically reduce the lifespan of the unit. Experienced DIYers can properly maintain a hot water tank with just an hour or two of work once or twice a year.
However, water tank maintenance may take longer for less experienced homeowners. Alternatively, you can hire a plumbing pro to maintain the unit for you.
We explain the basics of water heater maintenance, as well as how often to check your tank and tips for making it last as long as possible.
Your Annual Water Heater Maintenance Checklist
There are four main steps to maintaining a standard hot water heater tank. While we outline how to perform each step, you should hire a plumber if you do not feel comfortable with any of these steps.
✓ Test the Pressure Relief Valve
Start your hot water maintenance by checking the pressure relief valve on the water tank. This valve is an important safety feature that automatically drains the tank to keep pressure from building up.
Although unlikely, overfilling the tank will put unnecessary pressure on the metal exterior. As the tank heats the water, it will expand and increase the pressure. If the pressure relief valve malfunctions, it could cause the tank to rupture or even explode.
To test the pressure relief valve, simply pull the check valve tab on the valve. Stand clear of the drain valve, because water will come out when you pull the check valve. If water does not come out, you will need to replace the relieve valve.
✓ Flush the Water Heater to Remove Sediment
Whether you have hard or soft water, sediment will build up in your hot water heater throughout the year. Sediment can increase the risk of damage to your water tank, reduce the amount of water available in your tank, and clog your water lines.
To avoid a build-up, you need to flush your tank every year. Consider flushing your water tank every six months if you have hard water. This is a relatively simple process, but it can be messy.
Make sure you turn off the power and find a safe place to drain the sediment-filled water. Connect a hose to the drain valve, with the end of the hose in a floor or sink drain.
Then, open the drain valve slowly to allow the water to flow out. Flushing the tank can take anywhere from 20 to 60 minutes, depending on the size of your tank.
You should take advantage of flushing your hot water tank to check the anode rod as well.
✓ Inspect the Anode Rod
The anode rod protects the inner lining of the water heater tank. It’s made of a steel core wire with a coating of zinc, aluminum, or a similar material.
The rod is designed to corrode, focusing the oxidizing power of the water to this specific piece inside the water tank. In effect, it prevents your water heater from rusting out and leaking.
Inspecting the anode rod requires you to drain the water tank. Carefully loosen the screw and pull out the anode rod. Ideally, the rod should be about ¾ inch thick. However, you should replace it if it is less than ½ inch thick or it is coated with calcium.
While you can check the rod yourself, it is a slightly dangerous DIY task. If you do not drain enough water from the tank, you can spill hot water on yourself. Also, the rod is usually quite hot, so use gloves and pull it out carefully.
Your Tankless Hot Water Heater Maintenance Checklist
Tankless water heaters are extremely convenient. They provide hot water on-demand throughout the home without the use of a storage tank.
Because they’re much smaller than traditional water heaters, they’re often used in smaller homes. Plus, they can be a more energy-efficient option if your hot water usage is low.
However, like traditional hot water heaters with storage tanks, there are several annual maintenance tasks. Here’s how to keep your tankless water heater in top shape.
✓ Descale the Tankless System
As the name implies, tankless hot water heaters do not have tanks. However, sediment still builds up. It tends to collect around the pipes, valves, and inlets of your tankless system.
You need a flush kit to fully clean out the mineral buildup in your tankless hot water heating system.
This task involves turning off the electricity or gas to your unit. You’ll also need to close the water valves. Next, you need to use the purge valves to discharge the water in the system, and then use undiluted vinegar or an authorized cleaning solution to descale the system.
This is another task that can be performed safely and efficiently by a local plumber. Improper cleaning could contaminate your drinking water, risk an electric shock, or leave large amounts of mineral buildup in your system.
✓ Check the Temperature Setting
It’s a good idea to review the temperature setting of your tankless system annually. If the system is turned up too high, it increases your utility bills and increases the amount of scale that builds up.
OSHA recommends you set your water heater as high as 140° F. At that temperature, the water is less likely to carry harmful bacteria. However, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recommends 120° F for home water heaters.
Your local plumber can help you determine which temperature setting is best for your home.
How Often Does Your Water Heater Need Maintenance?
Yearly inspections and flushes promote a safe, energy-efficient water heater.
While this article includes DIY options you can do on your own today, it’s best to call on a professional plumber for your official annual inspection. Water heaters combine electricity, water, and sometimes gas. They can be hazardous appliances without the right tools and expertise.
Water Heater Tip: Save On Utility Bills By Insulating Pipes
Looking for a maintenance task to cut down on your utility bills? Your water heater is designed to hold a large amount of water at a consistent temperature. This is a convenient way to enjoy a hot shower any time of the day, but it’s not always the most energy-efficient process.
The storage tank is insulated to reduce the amount of lost heat in the system. But there are some ways you can improve the insulation.
For example, consider an insulation blanket to wrap around your water heater. Installation requires some time and care since it needs to be trimmed around the pipes, temperature controls, pressure relief valves, and other components.
The water pipes running into your water heater can also be insulated. Pipe insulation comes in sizes that match the common diameters of water lines. Make sure you choose the right diameter. Also, cover both the hot and cold water lines.
Insulating the hot water pipe reduces the amount of heat lost as the water travels or sits in the pipe. Insulating the cold pipe prevents condensation from forming in the summer.
If you can’t remember the last time your water heater was serviced, then let Best Pick Reports help. We are the fast, free way to find a plumber in your area. You can hire with confidence, knowing that we have independently verified they have the proper licenses and insurance.
Plus, we offer our exclusive Best Pick Guarantee. Our local pros offer exceptional service. But in the rare instance where you are unhappy with the results, Best Pick Reports will help you reach a positive outcome. We could even pay you up to $2,500 for the inconvenience.