Your water heater may run quietly behind the scenes, but it’s one of the hardest-working appliances in your home. Do you give your water heater the attention it deserves? If not, it could break down more often, leaving you with ice-cold water for bathing, showering, cooking, and cleaning until you get it fixed. You might also pay more for hot water if you neglect your water heater, driving up your monthly utility bills.
It’s easy to lower your water heating costs and prevent inconvenient breakdowns—simply perform water heater maintenance twice a year. Most homeowners can follow these steps without help, but you can always call a plumber for assistance if you don’t feel comfortable maintaining the water heater yourself.
1. Prepare the Tank for Water Heater Maintenance
Before you begin, shut off the gas or electricity to the water heater, depending on the power source. Close the cold water inlet, and allow the water to cool down for a while. In the meantime, allow a trickle of hot water to flow from a faucet in your home to release pressure inside the tank.
2. Test the Temperature and Pressure Relief (TPR) Valve
The TPR valve is a safety mechanism that opens automatically if the temperature and pressure inside the tank rise to unsafe levels. If this valve doesn’t operate correctly, the tank could over-pressurize and explode.
The TPR valve is located on the side of the water heater near the top of the tank. Before testing the valve, place a bucket under it to catch water. Then, lift up on the tab. You should hear a slight rush of air or see water and vapor exit the valve. If not, or if the valve fails to snap back into place, you’ll need to have a new one installed. Call a plumber for assistance.
3. Examine the Anode Rod
Every tank-style water heater features a sacrificial anode rod made of aluminum or magnesium. This simple device attracts corrosive elements in your hot water to help preserve the tank’s lining. Without the rod, the inside of the tank would corrode rapidly, shortening its lifespan.
To check the condition of the anode rod, loosen the hex head screw on top of the tank, unscrew the rod, and lift it out. If it’s less than one-half inch thick or coated with calcium, you should replace it sooner rather than later with a plumber’s help. Remember, installing a new anode rod is far cheaper than replacing a rusted-out water heater.
Perform a Mini-Flush
Sediment buildup inside the tank decreases efficiency, shortens the water heater’s lifespan, and promotes corrosion. Draining a few gallons from the tank flushes out sediment to improve performance and longevity. Ideally, a plumber should drain the entire tank once a year or so. But the next best thing is to perform a mini-flush.
Start by attaching a hose to the tank’s drain valve and letting a few gallons flow into a nearby bucket or sink. Then, open the cold water inlet to stir up sediment in the tank. Drain and repeat until the water flows clear.
Restart the Water Heater
After finishing the mini-flush, close the drain valve and open the water inlet to refill the tank. Then, restore power.
If you have a gas water heater, set the gas valve to the “on” position and the control knob to “pilot.” Press the knob and push the igniter button, and the pilot should relight. If you have an electric water heater, make sure the tank has completely refilled before attempting to restore power, or the upper heating element will burn out.
Once power is restored, set the thermostat to 120 degrees to maximize energy efficiency and prevent scalding at the tap. But don’t lower the temperature any further, or you’ll risk microbial growth in the tank.
Adding water heater insulation reduces heat loss by as much as 45 percent and can reduce water heating costs by up to 9 percent. You can buy a water heater jacket from your local hardware store and cut holes in the right places to accommodate water outlets, valves, and gauges. You can also insulate the pipes entering and exiting your water heater with self-sticking foam pipe insulation to help water get hot faster at the tap.
Schedule Water Heater Maintenance or Repair
Whether your water heater is acting up or you want to stop problems in their tracks, reach out to Redfin Plumbing. We service water heaters of all kinds, including gas-fired, electric-powered, traditional storage tanks, and tankless water heaters. We treat your home and family with respect, being careful to leave the work area cleaner than we found it. We also provide a 100% satisfaction guarantee and exceptional plumber service warranties for your peace of mind. Call us at (346) 319-5342 or contact us online to schedule water heater services in Houston, Cypress, Katy, Sugarland, Pearland, the Woodlands, Kingwood, and the surrounding Greater Houston area.