Water Heater How-To’s — and What NOT to Do!

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While you probably rarely think about it, your water heater has an extremely important job in your home. For instance, it is in charge of ensuring that you have a warm shower in the morning and hot water for your dishwasher. Whatever you need hot water for, your water heater is working for you. To keep your water heater up and running though, it needs proper maintenance. Without the proper maintenance steps, your water heater may spring a leak and cost you a lot of money since it is one of the biggest stores of water in your home. A leak can result in damage to your floors, mold and mildew in your crawl spaces, and various other costly damages and repairs. No need to worry though, your dedicated team at Roto-Rooter Plumbing & Drain has put together a Do’s and Don’t guide to help you maintain your water heater’s health.

1. Checking the Thermostat Setting

Most homeowners don’t realize that their water heater has a thermostat. However, before you make any adjustments to it, sit down with your family and decide what is “hot” for them. Remember, this definition of hot needs to be consistent throughout the household, as this temperature is going to be responsible for both the kitchen water and your shower water. Next, go to the thermostat (located on your water heater) and put in your setting. As a guide, the Department of Energy recommends that homeowners keep their hot water tank set at 120 degrees Fahrenheit because this gives plenty of wiggle room to create the ideal temperature for both your shower and dishes. However, going above that can be dangerous, as anything above 120 degrees Fahrenheit can burn skin.

Pro Tip: If You Have Dial Temperature Gauge

If you have a dial that has no physical numbers written on it, you will want to adjust the dial slowly. Make sure you test the water temperature the next day (it takes some time to adjust). Adjust accordingly until you reach the temperature zone that is perfect for you and your family. If you are having trouble, consider using a marker to mark the spot you are currently on. This will help you remember where your dial is currently set at.

Make sure you do not adjust the dial too quickly. Doing so will cause the water to heat up too much and can result in an unpleasant burning during your shower or for your kitchen sink. Always adjust the dial in small increments that are about the diameter of the width of two nickels.

2. Drain Test Your Water Heater Annually

A drain test is another easy maintenance task that can help flush out any built-up sediments that have accumulated in your water heater. These sentiments can cause your heater’s tank to rot or cause metallic stains in your sinks and tubs.

To drain your water heater, simply turn off the cold water intake. Then, using a short, common garden hose, attach the hose to the drain valve and put the other end into a 5-gallon bucket. You will probably fill up the bucket 1-2 times before the hot water tank is drained (this depends on the size of your unit).

When you are ready to begin draining, open the drain valve. Pay particular attention to the water as it fills the bucket. If it is cloudy, this means that there is sentiment built up. Turn off the drain valve, empty the bucket, and start again. If the water is still cloudy, turn off the drain and turn on the cold water supply. This will help stir up the sediment, bringing it to the surface. Next, turn off the cold water valve and begin draining the water tank. Continue this process until the water in the bucket is clear.

Pro Tip: Never Allow Your Water Heater Tank to Be Empty

When you are drain testing, always make sure you are replacing the water after the second bucketful. Running the tank dry can result in severe damage to the heating elements, the tank liners, and even the burner.

3. Remove Items Kept Around Your Hot Water Heater

While many people like to use the area around their hot water heater as storage, this is extremely dangerous. When your hot water heater is operating, any materials that are flammable or combustible will heat up, which can result in a fire. Make sure that all materials are kept at least 18 inches away from the hot water heater at all times. This is especially true for flammable chemicals, holiday presents and wrapping paper, and other paper products.

4. Have Your Water Heater Inspected Regularly

A yearly inspection of your water heater by a trusted plumbing professional goes a long way. These professionals can spot hidden problems before they become major issues and repair them so that your hot water heater can last you all year long. If you skip on the inspection, you may be facing a leak and costly repairs later on. Avoid the headache and make sure your water heater gets a proper check-up.

Need someone to come and check your water heater? The dedicated team at Roto-Rooter Plumbing & Drain is more than happy to ensure that your water heater is running properly and has no underlying issues. Contact our team for more information about our services or to schedule your water heater maintenance check!