Your water heater requires a little regular maintenance to run efficiently, effectively, and last longer. That’s because minerals and other sediment accumulate in water heaters, and this buildup means your water heater has to work harder to do its job. It can even cause the tank to rust. But with a few steps and tasks you can help prevent these problems:
- Adjust the thermostat to 120 degrees: At temperatures higher than this, even more minerals settle and form deposits. So keep it in the zone. And when you plan to leave for a few days, change the thermostat on gas water heaters to “vacation” setting, which maintains the pilot light without heating the water.
- Flush the water heater tank: This should be done once or twice each year. Start by turning off the electricity or gas to the heater. Then, close the valve supplying cold water. Connect a hose to the drain valve. Open the hot handle of any faucet and safely drain the tank. Once the tank is empty, close the drain valve and remove the hose. Then, you should open the cold water supply. Next, open the hot water faucets throughout your house one at a time, and wait until water flows out from them before restoring power to the heater.
- Check the “sacrificial” anode rod: This is a long metal rod that attracts corrosive minerals and removes them from the system. Look closely for damage – if it is too corroded, it cannot do its job. Replacing the rod is much cheaper than buying a new water heater! Newer heaters made with a plastic versus metal lining may not have this rod.
- Test the temperature and pressure relief valve: This valve is built to open automatically if pressure or the temperature inside the tank rises to dangerous levels. A buildup of minerals or corrosion could cause this valve to freeze, however. To check the valve, turn off the electricity or gas to the heater, and close the cold water supply valve. Lift the trip lever on the valve, and expect some water to discharge. If the valve does not release some water, that means that it should be replaced.
- Consider a water softener or filtration system: Installing either of these will not only affect the quality of your home’s water, but it will also increase the life of your water heater – making a multi-purpose, multi-benefit investment.
While your owner’s manual can step you through all of these maintenance tasks for your water heater, it is often best to hire a professional technician to handle annual maintenance needs and potential repairs. This will ensure the job is completed fully, safely and properly. And that your water heater runs in tip-top shape all season, and year, long.