How to Take Care of Your Water Heater

With the winter months upon us, you want to know that your water heater is functioning properly. You really want it to last you all winter. Here’s how to keep you water heater in top shape.

Keep your water heater at a temperature below 120 degrees Fahrenheit

Having your water heater set at a temperature above 120 degrees not only can cause scalding, but it’s a waste of energy. If you plan to be away for awhile, you should be sure to put your water heater at its lowest setting. Not only will this save you money, but reduce risk of potential problems when you’re away. It will also extend the life of your water heater.

Maintain your water heater monthly

If you’re hearing cracking, rumbling, sizzling, or whistling sounds coming from your water heater, you may have a problem. Fortunately, you may be able to fix part of the problem.  Put a bucket under the drain valve near the bottom of the water heater. Drain at least five gallons from the bottom of the tank.

You may see a lot of sediment accumulation. Sediment buildup is actually normal, so to prevent problems, be sure to do this draining at least once a month. This way, your unit will run much more efficiently and you can prevent potentially serious damage to your water heater. These problems can cause not only extra energy costs, but also electric element failures and cause your tank to fail long before it should.

If you miss a month of draining, and your unit seems to be functioning properly, it’s OK. Just be sure that the draining is done on a regular basis. At the very minimum, it should be done at least once a year.

Inspect your water heater every six months

In addition to monthly draining of sediment buildup, you ideally should have your water heater inspected once every six months. During this inspection, one of the primary components of the water heater that should be checked is the temperature-pressure relief valve.

You should test this valve by lifting or pressing down on the handle. Water should flow through the valve and down the discharge pipe. If it doesn’t, this means that either the valve is faulty or there’s another problem with your water heater. You should have a plumber deal with it immediately. Also, if there are signs of any water that has been leaking, a plumber should come immediately to diagnose and fix the problem – replacing the water heater entirely, if necessary.

Other components that can affect your water heater

There are other components that should be inspected, as well, including the cold water supply pipe and hot water outlet pipe. The water heater’s housing should also be checked and the unit’s base should be inspected for any corrosion, rust, or any sign of leakage. If you do find moisture, ensure that it’s not from condensation by wiping it with a towel. If the moisture returns, then there are one or more leaks that need to be repaired.

If you’re actually having problems with your water heater, but can’t find the problem, an infrared inspection professional can help. Infrared cameras are useful in these types of inspections to find potential problems that a visual inspection may not find. For example, your unit could be putting off a lot of radiant heat. In this case, you may want to invest in extra thick insulation around your heater. Helping prevent this heat loss can save both energy and money by helping your unit be more efficient.

Additional Considerations for Gas or Oil-Fired Water Heaters

One advantage of having a gas-fired or oil-fired water heater is that they can be professionally serviced at the same time as your heating system. The service professional will not only inspect and test the valves, but also drain any sediment from the tank. He or she will also inspect the flue assembly, as well as adjust & clean the burner ports.

By following this advice, you should have a properly functioning water heater for years to come.


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