This, however, only applies to properly-installed, well-maintained water heaters. Incorrect installation, as well as a lack of maintenance, can shorten a heater’s life span.
The thing is, a new heater can cost you anywhere from $800 to over $1,500. That’s a lot of money that you can otherwise save with proper hot water heater maintenance.
Ready to learn the best tricks on how to maintain a water heater and keep it efficient? Then let’s dive right into it!
1. Make Sure the Thermostat Is Set to 120 Degrees
Most water heaters have a thermostat preset at 140 degrees. If you haven’t tuned this down to 120 degrees, now’s the time to do so. This will help slow the process of scaling as well as corrosion in your plumbing system.
This is especially true for 90% of US homes that have hard water. Heat precipitates the dissolved minerals, like calcium, out of hard water. As a result, the minerals build up on appliances and the insides of pipes over time.
Over the years, the hardened scale that these minerals form can cause corrosion. This can then shorten the lifespan not only of your plumbing pipes but of your water heater too.
Besides, you can save 3% to 5% on your heating bills for every 10-degree reduction on your thermostat. By lowering your water heater thermostat to 120 degrees, you can save 6% to 10%!
2. Check for Rust and Leaks
One in 10 US homes have leaks that lead to at least 90 gallons of wasted water every day. That’s almost 33,000 gallons of wasted water in a year, enough to sustain the water needs of one person for 365 days!
Defects in water supply lines are the main culprit behind these leaks. However, your water heater tank and fixtures, such as faucets and showerheads, can also be to blame. Rust and corrosion in heater tanks can be leaking out precious water.
If the rust occurs only on minor components, such as the heat exchanger, you may only have to replace that part. If the tank itself is leaking at the bottom though, you’d likely need to replace the entire thing.
This is why you should check your heater for any signs of corrosion and leaks at least twice a year. If you do notice such symptoms, contact a water heater repair tech ASAP. Depending on the severity of the issue, they may still be able to save your heater.
3. Tighten Loose External Components
Leaks can also arise from loose or damaged fasteners such as screws, nuts, and bolts. Worn gaskets (or seals) can also let water seep out of your water heater. The heat and pressure from the tank can force these parts to “move”, which is why they can become loose over time.
So, as part of your water heater maintenance plan, check for loose fasteners and gears at least once or twice a year. You can simply tighten these parts with tools like screwdrivers, wrenches, and ratchets.
4. Regularly Discharge Water from the Pressure Relief Valve
Water heaters, especially gas-powered ones, come with a temperature and pressure relief valve. It’s a safety device engineered to let out excess pressure inside the tank. This can happen if the temperature inside the tank goes up to dangerous levels.
In some cases, however, a T & P valve can get blocked or damaged, restricting it from opening. If this happens, excessive heat and pressure will build up inside the heater. Leaks can also develop from this vital safety component.
You can prevent these from happening by regularly putting the valve to work. Before you do this though, be sure to turn off your electricity or gas first.
Next, place a bucket right under the valve. Depending on the type of valve you have, you may either need to push or pull its trip lever to discharge water. What’s important is that the lever should open and let out a bit of air, some vapor, and of course, water.
Repeat this step for at least two or three times. This will also help remove some of the sediments that may have built up around the valve. Make sure you do all these steps at least twice a year to ensure your T & P valve remains in good condition.
5. Flush the Tank At Least Twice A Year
One of the easiest ways on how to clean water heaters is through a once- or twice-a-year flushing. Again, start by either shutting the electricity or gas off. This time, however, you need to connect a hose to the heater’s drain outlet and run it into a drain or right outside.
Open one of your hot water faucets to let some air into the tank. This will move the water from the tank and into the hose. Refill the tank with about five more gallons of cold water to flush away remaining sediments.
6. Inspect the Anode Rod
Every time you flush your water heater, inspect the anode rod too, which should be on the top side of the tank. It’s a tube-like device made of metal like aluminum or magnesium. Its purpose is to attract corrosive elements within the water.
Most anode rods last for about three to five years. It can be shorter, however, depending on the quality of your water. That’s why it’s best to inspect the anode rod at least once a year too.
If the anode rod has depleted to half its original size, get it replaced ASAP. Otherwise, it will no longer be able to attract corrosive elements to itself. With nowhere else to go, these elements will attack your tank’s lining itself.
7. Keep the Surrounding Area Clean and Free of Debris
At least two feet on all sides of your water heater unit should be clear of obstructions. That’s because the heat may transfer to nearby objects. This can then cause a drop in the system’s heating efficiency.
Combustible objects near the water heater can also easily catch fire if they get hot enough. That should be enough reason to keep the area around your heater clean and clear at all times.
Keep Enjoying Hot Water With These Hot Water Heater Maintenance Tips
There you have it, the most important steps to proper hot water heater maintenance. By following this maintenance plan, you can keep enjoying hot showers and baths. More than that, you can help extend the life of your hot water heater.
Just as important though is to know when to call water heater repair professionals. If you’re dealing with serious rusting, contact a heater repair specialist right away. Otherwise, that corrosion can give way to severe leaks, which can then lead to indoor flooding.
Ready for more ideas on home improvements and repairs that you can do on your own? Then be sure to check out our other posts filed under the DIY section!