Preventive Maintenance of Your Water Heater

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Mark Jardine
June 12, 2024
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A functional water heater is a true household hero, providing us with soothing hot water for our daily needs. But what happens when this trusty appliance malfunctions? The frustration is palpable. Don't worry, though – we've got you covered!
In this comprehensive guide, we'll explore the world of preventive maintenance for your water heater. Discover the benefits of regular upkeep, the key maintenance practices you should know, signs that your water heater needs professional attention, and the recommended maintenance schedule. Let's dive in and ensure that it remains a reliable source of warmth and comfort.

Benefits of Preventive Maintenance

When it comes to a water heater, engaging in preventive maintenance offers several significant benefits:

Increased Reliability

Regular maintenance helps identify and address minor problems before they escalate into major issues. By conducting inspections, cleaning, and adjustments, you can prevent unexpected breakdowns and ensure that your water heater operates reliably. This means you won't have to endure cold showers or sudden heater failures, providing peace of mind and convenience.

Extended Lifespan

Water heaters are expensive appliances, and replacing them can be a significant financial burden. However, through preventive maintenance, you can extend the lifespan of your water heater. By regularly inspecting and maintaining components such as heating elements, valves, and tanks, you can prevent premature wear and tear, corrosion, and damage, allowing it to function efficiently for a longer period.

Cost Savings

Preventive maintenance helps you save money in several ways. First, you can avoid expensive repairs or replacements by identifying and addressing minor problems early on. It's more cost-effective to fix a small problem during routine maintenance than to deal with a major breakdown or complete system failure. Additionally, a well-maintained water heater operates more efficiently, consuming less energy and reducing utility bills. By optimizing energy efficiency, you not only save money but also contribute to environmental sustainability.

Improved Energy Efficiency

Over time, sediment buildup, mineral deposits, and other forms of debris can accumulate in your water heater, reducing its efficiency. This leads to higher energy consumption and increased utility costs. Regular maintenance tasks such as flushing the tank, cleaning the heating elements, and inspecting the burner can help remove these deposits and ensure your heater operates at peak efficiency. By maximizing energy efficiency, you'll enjoy the same level of comfort while minimizing your environmental impact and reducing energy expenses.

Enhanced Safety

Neglected water heaters can pose safety hazards, including the risk of leaks, gas leaks (in gas-powered water heaters), or even the potential for explosions in extreme cases. Preventive maintenance involves checking for signs of leaks, inspecting gas connections (if applicable), and ensuring the proper functioning of safety features like pressure relief valves. These measures help reduce the chances of accidents, promoting a safe living environment for you and your family.

Key Preventive Maintenance Practices

Now that you understand the benefits, it's time to explore the 5 essential maintenance practices that will keep it in top shape.
  • Flushing the Tank: Over time, sediment and mineral deposits can accumulate at the bottom of the water heater tank, reducing its efficiency and potentially causing damage. Flushing the tank regularly helps remove these sediments. Here's how to do it:
- Turn off the power supply or gas valve to the water heater.
- Connect a garden hose to the drain valve at the bottom of the tank.
- Place the other end of the hose in a suitable drainage area or connect it to a floor drain.
- Open the drain valve and allow the water to flow out until it runs clear.
- Close the drain valve, remove the hose, and turn on the water supply and power/gas.
  • Checking and Replacing Anode Rods: Anode rods are sacrificial components that help prevent corrosion inside the heater tank. Over time, these rods degrade and should be checked regularly (every 2-3 years) and replaced if necessary. Here's how to do it:
- Turn off the power supply or gas valve to the water heater.
- Locate the anode rod on top of the tank or behind a panel.
- Use a suitable tool to unscrew and remove the anode rod.
- Inspect the rod for signs of significant corrosion or depletion.
- If necessary, replace the old anode rod with a new one of the same type and size.
- Tighten the new anode rod securely and turn on the power/gas supply.
  • Inspecting and Cleaning Heating Elements: For electric water heaters, the heating elements play a crucial role in heating the water. Over time, these elements can accumulate scale or mineral deposits, affecting their efficiency and performance. Here's how to inspect and clean the heating elements:
- Turn off the power supply to the water heater.
- Remove the access panel(s) covering the heating elements.
- Inspect the elements for signs of corrosion, damage, or heavy buildup.
- If needed, clean the elements using a soft brush or a descaling solution.
- Reinstall the access panel(s) securely and turn on the power supply.
  • Testing and Adjusting Temperature and Pressure Settings: Proper temperature and pressure settings are important for the safe and efficient operation of a water heater. Here's what you should do:
- Locate the temperature and pressure relief valve (usually on the side of the tank).
- Lift the valve's lever partway and let it snap back to test its functionality.
- Ensure that the valve discharges a small amount of water when tested.
- If the valve is faulty, it should be replaced.
- To adjust the temperature setting, follow the manufacturer's instructions.
- Generally, the recommended temperature is around 120 degrees Fahrenheit for most households.
  • Insulating Pipes and the Water Heater: Insulating the hot water pipes and the water heater itself can help prevent heat loss, improve energy efficiency, and reduce standby heat loss. Here's what you can do:
- Insulate hot water pipes with foam pipe insulation sleeves.
- Pay particular attention to exposed pipes in unheated areas (e.g., basements, crawl spaces).
- Insulate the water heater tank using an insulating blanket or jacket specifically designed for it.
- Ensure that the insulation materials used are appropriate and follow the manufacturer's guidelines.

Signs of Water Heater Issues

Awareness of the signs of water heater problems allows you to take prompt action and prevent potential disruptions. Here are five common signs to watch out for:
  • Insufficient Hot Water: If you're consistently running out of hot water faster than usual or if the water never reaches the desired temperature, it may indicate a malfunctioning heating element, sediment buildup, or a faulty thermostat within your water heater.
  • Discolored or Rusty Water: When you turn on the hot water tap and notice discolored or rusty water coming out, it's a clear sign that there may be corrosion inside your heater tank. This can not only affect the quality of your water but also indicate potential damage to the tank that may lead to leaks.
  • Unusual Noises: Strange noises, such as banging or rumbling sounds coming from your heater, are often caused by sediment buildup at the bottom of the tank. This buildup can create hot spots, leading to disruptive noises during the heating process.
  • Leaks or Moisture Around the Water Heater: Any signs of leaks or moisture around your water heater should never be ignored. Leaks can indicate issues with the tank, valves, or connections. Even small leaks can worsen over time, leading to significant water damage and potential structural issues if left untreated.
  • Increased Energy Consumption: If you notice a sudden spike in your energy bills without a corresponding increase in usage, it could be due to an inefficient water heater. As the unit ages or accumulates sediment, it requires more energy to heat the water, resulting in higher energy consumption and increased costs.

Recommended Maintenance Schedule

To ensure your water heater's performance and longevity, following a well-structured maintenance schedule is essential.
  • Monthly Tasks:
- Check the temperature and pressure relief valve for proper operation and any water discharge.
- Inspect all connections and valves for leaks or dripping water.
- Test the emergency shutoff valve to ensure it is functioning correctly.
- Monitor and adjust the water temperature as needed.
  • Quarterly Tasks:
- Drain a few gallons of water from the tank to remove sediment buildup.
- Inspect the condition of the sacrificial anode rod and replace it if necessary.
  • Annual Tasks:
- Conduct a thorough inspection of the entire water heater system for wear, damage, or corrosion.
- Insulate exposed hot water pipes and consider insulating the water heater tank.

Get Professional Maintenance and Inspection Now!

Professional maintenance and inspection play a crucial role in ensuring the optimal functioning of your water heater. When you encounter complex issues or require specialized services, it's time to seek expert assistance. Home Alliance offers a wide range of plumbing services, including water heater maintenance, gas leak repair, sewer replacement, emergency plumbing services, hydro jetting services, and more.
Our certified plumbers provide top-notch service, ensuring quality workmanship. Moreover, we strive to offer affordable service charges, making us a reliable and cost-effective choice for all your plumbing needs. Book us now and experience excellence in plumbing services.