How to Maintain your Water Heater

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Keeping up the maintenance on your water heater will make it last longer and can also save you quite a bit on your utility bills. If you think the maintenance or repairs on your hot water tank are too extensive, then it’s time to call the plumber. However, some maintenance and repairs are easy enough to do yourself. Here are some steps you can take to troubleshoot and repair your water heater:

Take Safety Precautions

Before you start working on your water heater, be sure the electricity to it is turned off, or if you have a gas hot water tank, shut the gas off so that the pilot light goes out. Keep in mind that the water in the tank is going to be hot, so if you have to drain the tank, be sure to take care not to burn yourself. Always wear thick rubber gloves, goggles, and protective clothing when you are working with a water heater.

Check the Water Heater’s Pressure Valve

The pressure relief (T&P) valve allows pressure out of the hot water tank should it build up too much. When the pressure gets too high, the valve releases to let the pressure out. If the valve is not working, the tank could explode.

Checking the pressure valve is something most people can easily do. Shut the electricity or the gas to the water heater off and close the spigot that allows water to flow into the tank. Place a bucket under the T&P valve.

Locate and pull the trip lever on the pressure relief valve. If the valve is working properly, you will hear air rush out and may see water and steam come out of the valve. If you do not hear air or see the water and steam, the valve needs to be replaced.

Get Rid of Sediment

All hot water tanks get a build-up of sediment. The sediment contributes to clogged water lines and decreases the tank’s efficiency. It could also cause the bottom of the boiler to rust prematurely. To flush the tank, turn the electricity or gas off, shut the cold water inlet off, and connect a garden hose to the drain near the bottom of the tank. Run the hose outside to a place where the hot water won’t harm your landscape.

Open the pressure relief valve and then open the drain valve. Allow the water tank to drain completely, and then close the drain valve and the pressure relief valve. Turn back on the water inlet to the tank and then turn on all of the hot water faucets in the house.

As the hot water starts to flow from each faucet, turn the faucets off. Once all of the faucets are turned off, turn the electricity or gas to the water heater on. If you turn the electric or gas on before the hot water tank is filled, you could burn out the upper heating element. Always ensure the water tank is filled before turning it on.

Don’t Let the Hot Water Tank Rust

Each water boiler has an anode rod which keeps the tank from rusting inside. Over time, however, the water often rusts the anode rod. To check the rod, connect a garden hose to the hot water tank’s drain. Allow a few gallons of water to drain out and then close the drain. Fit a 1 1/16-inch socket over the hex head on the rod, which is located on the top of the hot water heater or under the top plate. Unscrew the rod, and if the rod is coated with calcium or if it’s less than a half-inch thick, replace it. Before you put the new rod in, wrap the threads with Teflon tape.

Save Money on your Water Bill

You can save money on your utility bills just by keeping your water heater maintained, turning the temperature down, and insulating it. If the temperature is set higher than 120 degrees Fahrenheit, adjust it down. For every 10 degrees you lower the temperature, you could save up to 5% in utility costs. And, if you are going on vacation, turn the hot water heater off via the breaker box.

Insulating the pipes with self-sticking 3/8-inch thick pipe insulation also helps with energy costs. Just slide the foam pipe insulation over the hot and cold water pipes. When you insulate the cold water pipe, you help prevent condensation during the warmer months.

Keeping up with maintenance is less expensive than replacing the water heater. However, if the water heater is leaking from the tank, is not heating the water, or has other major issues, contact Denton Roto-Rooter and we’ll repair or replace your hot water tank.