While a water heater doesn't require much maintenance, there are a few things you should do every year to keep it running smoothly. Taking the time for some simple yearly maintenance will not only extend the life of your water heater but can also prevent costly repairs down the road. Below we have provided some simple tips to help.
Check the Temperature Setting
The first thing you should do is check the thermostat to make sure the temperature is set properly. It's generally recommended that you set your water heater to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Keep in mind that turning up the temperature will not heat your water any faster, and it can actually put unnecessary strain on the unit, which can lead to premature failure.
Flush the Tank
Over time, sediment can build up in the bottom of your water heater's tank. This can lead to a number of problems, including decreased efficiency and shorter lifespan. To prevent this from happening, simply attach a hose to the drain valve at the bottom of the tank and open it up. Let the water run until it's clear, then close the valve. Repeat this process once per year.
Keep the Area Clean
Another simple way to extend the life of your water heater is to keep the area around it clean and free of clutter. This includes making sure there's adequate ventilation so that flammable vapors don't build up and cause a fire.
Put it on Vacation Mode
If you are away longer than just the weekend: If you're going to be gone for an extended period of time, put your water heater in "vacation mode." This will lower the temperature of the unit and help save energy while you're away. Simply find your water heater's thermostat and turn it down to its lowest setting before you leave. When you return, simply turn it back up and let it heat back up before using it again.
Why it's so Important to Take Care of Your Water Heater
As with any machine that gets used on a regular basis, parts will start to wear down and break over time. This is why it’s important to regularly maintain your water heater by flushing the tank and checking the anode rod. If these things are not done, your water heater will break down much quicker and will likely need to be replaced long before its expected lifespan.
In addition, by not properly maintaining your water heater you put yourself and your family at risk of scalding or burns from hot water that is not being regulated properly.
Advanced Water Heater Maintenance ( for under $50.00)
Don't risk your safety! Complete these steps before performing maintenance procedures on your water heater to avoid the risk of water damage, scalding burns, electrocution, or explosion:
- Disconnect the power at the breaker.
- Shut off the gas valve making sure the pilot light is out.
- Close the cold water inlet valve or turn off the main water supply.
- Turn on the hot water from a faucet somewhere in your house. You will notice that there is no water coming out of it, but this doesn't matter because it's just to relieve the pressure inside the water heater tank.
Check the Anode Rod
To start, attach a garden hose to the spigot at the bottom of the water heater. Be sure to aim the hose towards a drain, as the water coming out will be hot. Relieve some pressure by opening the spigot and letting out some water before accessing your tank's anode rod. If you don't see a hex head bolt at the top of the water heater, it may be built into the system. In this case, checking or replacing the anode rod will require the help of a licensed plumber.
Unscrew the hex head on top of the heater with a 1 1/16-inch socket. Be careful when removing the rod, as it will be hot. Check the thickness of the anode rod. If it is less than half an inch thick or coated with calcium, it needs to be replaced. Replacement anode rods can be found at a local hardware store for around $30-$50.
Insulate the Pipes
Reflective insulation typically costs between $40.00 and $50.00. Adding insulation reduces heat loss by up to 45 percent and can shave as much as 9 percent off water-heating costs. Cut the insulating blanket to fit around pipes, the TPR valve, and the temperature control sticking out of the tank. Wrap the side of the tank, and seal cuts with foil tape. Do not cover the tops of oil or gas heaters.
It may be easy to forget about your water heater given that it’s usually hidden away in a closet or basement, but yearly maintenance is important in order to prolong its lifespan and prevent costly repairs or replacement.
Taking some time each year to flush the tank and check the anode rod is well worth it given all the benefits. Not only will it save you money in the long run, but it will also keep you and your family safe from potential injuries.
So, don’t wait until your water heater breaks down—give it some TLC today!