We rely upon a water heater day after day. Because they are usually installed in the garage or basement, we do not think too much about it until we do not have any hot water or we discover water leaking on the floor. Many water heaters will last for a long time because they have been given proper maintenance to extend their life. By extending the life of your water heater, you save money because you do not have to buy a new one.

You will want to do a simple three-step program annually to keep your tank at top condition. This program will only take about 5 minutes to do and is simple to accomplish. You will be doing three things:

  1. Change the temperature
  2. Test the Relief Valve for temperature and pressure
  3. Flush sediments from the bottom of the tank

Let’s start with Step No. 1: Changing the temperature

  • At the front of the water heater tank is a dial. It may be a knob on the gas valve or a thermostat on an electric heater.
  • Change the settings to about 60 degrees. If you keep your water hotter than this temperature, you are wasting energy and may cause your tank to overheat. Your hot water heater will actually add cold water to the hot water if it is very high as a safety measure.

The second step we are going to check is the temperature and pressure relief valve. This valve is critical to the proper operation of your water heater and is a safety feature.

  • To test the valve, lift up the lever about half way, let go, and let it snap back.
  • Listen for a gurgling sound. The valve is allowing water to be released into the drain tube.
  • If you did not hear anything, it may mean that the valve is bad and needs to be replaced.

The third and last step of maintaining your heater is to flush the sediment from the tank. This will help prevent corrosion and rust from building up inside the tank. It is best to do a full flush but that means you would have to shut down your storage tank and drain all of the water inside. You can perform a smaller flush that will work. You can do this mini flush while the hot water heater is still running. Here is what to do:

  • At the bottom of the tank is a drain valve. You can hook up a hose and run it outside or put a bucket under the valve.
  • Your tank may have a handle on the drain or one that will need to be turned with a screw driver.
  • Turn the handle counter clockwise. Hot water will begin draining from the tank.
  • When you have drained a couple of gallons, turn the drain off by turning clockwise.

Caution: Be prepared for the water draining from the water heater to be hot. Be sure children are not around you when you do this and be careful that you are not burned.

Even with care, a water heater can have problems. Signs that your water heater is having a problem are the following:

  • No hot water
  • Water leaking around the base of the heater
  • Low popping sound inside the tank
  • Rust colored water
  • Cool or cold water at the tap when the hot water is turned on

If you are experienced with replacing water heaters, you can replace your heater or try to repair the area that may be broken. Your other option is to call a plumber. These are possible problems that your water heater may be having:

  • The heating element may be bad if you get luke warm water when showering.
  • Check to see when you are having a problem with not having enough hot water. Is it in the morning or evening when all of the family members are showering? You may need a larger tank or a change of schedules.
  • If you are experiencing rust colored water, you may have corrosion and rust inside of your tank or the anode rod is failing.
  • If you are hearing a low popping noise, it is boiling water inside of your tank. Sediment has built up in the bottom of your tank and it is overheating.
  • If you find that your heater is leaking, it is usually the relief valve not working properly or your tank has rusted or corroded.

Keeping your hot water heater in good condition is important. You will enjoy the benefits of having hot water when you want it.

You may want to add a “blanket” around your heater. This is a special blanket that will help to insulate your hot water heater and bring it to an insulated value of R-16. Check the fittings on your heater to be sure they are dry and in good condition before installing the blanket. Be sure the valves and thermostats are left exposed so you can perform routine maintenance. By insulating your water heater, you can reduce the standby heat losses up to 45%. This will save you up to 9% in your hot water heating costs.

With a little care your hot water heater will continue to provide you with hot water when you want it. Would now be a good time to go and check yours?

Water Heater Maintenance Tips