How to Maintain Your Water Heater
Water heaters typically last 7 to 14 years. Your water heater’s performance and lifespan depend largely on how often it's maintained. Gas, electric and tankless models all vary in performance over the years, but no matter what you have in your home, you will increase its lifespan and its ability to perform efficiently with regular seasonal maintenance.
Checking the pressure relief valve or flushing the tank are fairly simple - but if working around electricity and gas gives you some hesitation, it might be best to call in a professional. If not, just be sure to wear gloves, goggles, and non-flammable clothing.
Whether you have a tank or tankless model water heater, you can help extend the life of your water heater with the following steps:
Check the pressure valve
Also called the T&P valve, your pressure valve opens automatically to release pressure when operating correctly.
- NEVER blow out the pilot light. The safest approach is to turn off the gas supply—or turn off the electricity to the water heater from your breaker box.
- Locate the area under your pressure release valve where water will be released and put a bucket underneath the valve.
- Pull the trip lever on the release valve and listen for a rush of air. Water or vapor should exit from the valve. If it doesn’t, you’ll have to drain the tank and replace your pressure release valve.
Before replacing the valve, you’ll need to remove the discharge pipe and valve from the unit so you can measure the length of the stem and ensure a matching replacement.
Be careful not to overtighten the valve while installing it. Once you’ve attached the discharge pipe, you can turn on your water and electricity. Then, relight the pilot light carefully, according to the instructions from the manufacturer.
Flush the water heater tank
Flushing your water heater tank removes the buildup of sediment. This is something you should do on a yearly basis. In addition to clogging your water line or causing the steel to rust, sediment can decrease your water heater’s efficiency significantly, adding to your utility bills month after month.
With the following yearly maintenance, you can extend the efficiency and lifespan of your water heater:
- Again, NEVER blow out the pilot light. Turn off the gas supply or turn off the electricity to the water heater from your breaker box.
- Turn the cold-water supply to the water heater off.
- Attach a garden hose to your water tank's drain valve.
- Scalding hot water will come out of the other end of your hose, so be sure to place it somewhere safe like your basement drain or outside of the house.
- Open the pressure relief valve, then open the drain valve to drain the tank completely. You should see sediment coming out of the hose but in time, the water should come out clear. Once the water is clear, you’ve removed the sediment.
- Close the drain valve.
- Disconnect your hose.
- Close the pressure relief valve.
- Open the hot-water spigots in the house.
- Turn on the cold-water to the tank.
- When water begins to flow from each hot water spigot, turn each spigot off.
- When all spigots have passed water and are turned off, turn your electricity or gas back on.
Within a couple of hours, your hot water should be running again. If it isn’t, make sure your water heater is getting proper voltage. We recommend contacting a local electrician if electrical issues continue or a local plumber if plumbing issues continue.
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