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Water Heater Maintenance Guide

Reading Time: 4 minutes

No matter what type of water heater you have, regular maintenance is necessary to extend its lifetime and guarantee the best performance. While underappreciated, the water heater has a critical function in your home. People tend to forget that without a hot water heater they wouldn’t enjoy hot baths and showers or wash their dishes in warm, soapy water. While we do not recommend that you work on it without the help of a professional plumber, here are some tips to help you maintain your hot water heater to keep it supplying hot water for years to come.

Testing the Pressure Relief Valve is Important

This valve is so important because it’s the safety apparatus that prevents the water heater from blowing up when excessive pressure increases inside. The pressure valve opens and releases the pressure to keep the tank from exploding. These steps lead you through the process of testing this valve. Make sure you wear protective clothing while doing maintenance on your hot water heater.

First, turn the electricity to the hot water heater off or turn off the gas supply to the pilot. Next, make sure to shut the cold water leading into the water heater off. After that, place a bucket or container under the valve to catch the water when you test it. Finally, use the valve’s trip lever to open it, and you should see some vapor and water exit through the valve and hear the air as it escapes. If no water comes out or it leaks after testing it, you should replace the pressure relief valve.

Inspect the Anode Rod

Both electric and gas water heaters have an anode rod. This rod attracts corrosive minerals so that they oxidize the rod and not the tank. As a result, the anode rod should be replaced approximately every five or six years to extend your water heater’s life.

To check the rod, turn off the power or gas to the hot water heater. Close the shut-off valve to the tank and open a hot water faucet in the house. Attach a hose to the drain cock on the tank to drain some water. Next, you’ll open the pressure valve and drain several gallons of water out of the tank. If the water is orange, this may not be a bad thing, but if there are rust flakes in the water its time to replace your hot water heater.

To locate your anode rod, check the user’s manual for your water heater. If you can’t find your original, you can usually find one online. Once you figure out where it is it may be difficult to remove so use some WD40 and an impact wrench or pipe cheater. Often an 11/16th-inch socket fits the hex head.

If your tank is around five years old, you see that rod is coated with calcium, or it’s smaller than ½ thickness you need to replace it especially if you’ve never replaced the rod before. When reinstalling the anode, using pipe thread sealant instead of plumber’s tape on the threads is a better idea because plumber’s tape makes the anode less effective. Finally, either drain more water out or flush the tank before turning any power or water on again.

Flushing Tankless or Traditional Water Heaters

You need to flush your water heater’s tank every year to prevent mineral sediment from building up and rusting the steel. To flush the tank on your traditional water heater, make sure that you turn off the tank’s cold-water supply and electricity. Turn on a hot water faucet in the house and trip the pressure valve. Next, use a bucket and hose to flush the water from the heater’s tank until the water is sediment-free and clear.

For a tankless water heater, shut off the cold water and electricity to it. Then turn off the valve that relays hot water into the house. Using a sump pump, connect a hose to the cold-water valve on your unit and the other end to the pump. Attach another garden hose to the hot water valve.

Next, you’ll put the other end of the hose along with the pump in a large bucket. Put approximately five gallons of white vinegar that is food grade into the bucket. Open up both isolation valves and turn on the pump letting the vinegar flow through your water heater for around 45 minutes. When that cycle finishes, throw away the vinegar and replace it with fresh water in the bucket. Flush the water heater with the plain water for about five minutes.

Clean the Filter

While you’re flushing the tankless water heater, you can also wash the sediment filter. This intake filter prevents debris from entering the unit. Remove the faceplate on your water heater to find the filter or look at the unit’s manual to locate it. Rinse the filter well with water once you remove it.

Afterward, dry it off using a clean cloth or paper towels before you reinstall it in the water heater. While you’re working on the air filter, you should also open the hot and cold-water valves. Turn the power back on to the water heater and check it for any leaks and address them if you find any.

These tips are some simple examples of how to extend the lifetime of your hot water heater. Maintaining it regularly ensures that your water heater will keep on providing you with hot water for many more years. A reminder that we do not recommend you implement these tips yourself, but rather hand over maintaining your water heater to a professional at Art Plumbing, Air Conditioning & Electric. We’ll check for leaks, corrosion, or other issues.


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