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  • Writer's pictureRuslan Atanasov

Essential Water Heater Maintenance:

Updated: Jun 16

Keep Your Hot Water Flowing

Tank Water Heaters

Just like any household appliance, your water heater requires regular maintenance to operate efficiently and have a long service life. Neglecting basic maintenance can lead to poor performance, higher energy costs, and even premature failure. This guide covers the key maintenance tasks every homeowner should do for their water heater.

Tank Water Heater
Tank Water Heater

Flushing the Tank Water Heater

Over time, sediment and mineral deposits can build up inside your water heater tank, causing corrosion, reducing efficiency, and potentially leading to leaks. At least once a year, you should flush out this sediment.

Flushing the Tank on a Gas Water Heater:

  1. Turn off the gas supply to the water heater by turning the gas control valve to the "Off" position. On many heaters, you'll find this valve on the gas supply line leading into the unit.

  2. Turn off the water supply by closing the cold water shut-off valve leading into the water heater tank. This is typically located above the water heater.

  3. Connect a garden hose to the drain valve at the bottom of the tank. Run the other end of the hose to a floor drain or outside where water can freely drain out.

  4. Open the drain valve by turning the valve cap counterclockwise with a flat head screwdriver. Allow the water to start draining out through the hose.

  5. Open the nearest hot water faucet in your home to allow air into the tank as it drains. This will help the tank completely empty.

  6. Let the tank fully drain until the water runs clear with no more sediment coming out through the hose.

  7. Once drained, close the drain valve by turning it clockwise until tight.

  8. Turn on the cold water supply valve leading into the tank to refill with fresh water. Keep the hot water faucet open to allow air to escape as the tank refills.

  9. Once the water flows steadily from the faucet, close the hot water tap.

  10. Relight the pilot light according to manufacturer instructions if it went out during draining.

  11. Turn the gas control valve back to the "On" position to fire up the burner again.

  12. Allow the tank to fully heat back up before using hot water.

Draining and flushing the tank at least once a year helps remove built-up sediment that causes corrosion, rumbling noises, and poor efficiency. Be very careful when working with gas lines and water heaters to avoid injury.

Inspecting the temperature and pressure relief valve (T&P valve) on a water heater:

The T&P valve is a crucial safety component that helps prevent the tank from becoming over pressurized or overheated. It is required to have this valve installed and functioning properly.

The T&P valve is typically located on the side or top of the water heater tank. It has a valve body with a discharge pipe running from it.

 Temperature and pressure relief valve
T&P valve

You should inspect and operate the T&P valve at least once a year:

  1. Keep the area around the discharge pipe clear. There should not be any obstructions that could interfere with the discharge of hot water if the valve activates.

  2. Lift up on the valve stem using a flat head screwdriver or valve key. This will open the valve and should allow hot water to flow out of the discharge pipe.

  3. Let the valve discharge water for 2-5 seconds then release the valve stem to allow it to snap back and re seat.

  4. If no water discharges when you lift the valve stem, the valve may be stuck shut. This means it can't properly relieve pressure and should be replaced.

  5. If water keeps flowing after releasing the valve stem, it indicates the valve is not fully re-seating. This faulty valve needs replacement.

  6. While the valve is discharging, inspect it for any corrosion or mineral buildup. The valve may need cleaning or replacement if heavily corroded.

The T&P valve serves as an emergency backup so it's essential to ensure it can open properly when needed to prevent hazardous pressure or temperature conditions inside the tank.

Checking for Leaks Regularly

Inspect around the tank, fittings, and valves for any sign of moisture or water leaking, which indicates a problem that needs repair before it leads to water damage.

Setting the Proper Temperature

Most households only need the tank set to 120°F. Setting it higher wastes energy and increases sediment buildup.

Not All Water Heaters Are Created Equal

When it comes to water heaters, there is a wide variety of types, sizes, and fuel sources that can make maintenance and repairs quite different from one unit to the next. Traditional tank-style water heaters come in electric, natural gas, propane, and even oil-fired models. These can range from small 20-gallon tanks to large 80-gallon residential units. It's easy to feel overwhelmed if you're a homeowner trying to properly service the unit yourself.

Always be careful working with water heaters and gas lines.

If you don't feel comfortable doing these maintenance steps, bring us in to do them for you.

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