As a homeowner or renter, have you given any thought to your water heater in recent months? Most people usually only ever think of their water heater after they begin to have a problem, like no hot water when you turn on the faucet or bath. The idea here is to give you six tips to become a responsible water heater owner so you can catch small problems before you have to deal with the headache of a large issue that was easily avoidable.
1. Understand What Type of Water Heater you Have Installed
You should either locate or ask someone to locate your water heater’s model number and serial number and write them down somewhere safe. Your water heater will either be a traditional storage tank type or a tankless model. It should go without saying but you should also know if your water heater is natural gas, electric, propane, or solar. Information on the age and gallon capacity is listed on the side, and this will be important for any warranty questions.
2. Know Where to Shut Off the Power or Fuel Supply
After you correctly identify what unit you have, make sue you know how to properly turn off any power source like gas or electricity that leads to the water heater. According to the International Codes Council, a gas valve or off switch must be located within three feet of the heater. You should also know where the main breaker shutoff is in case the regular one fails. Keep any tools to open the breaker box or turn off the water heater valves close and in plain site. It’s easy to panic if there’s water going everywhere and the more prepared you are, the better off the experience will be.
3. Perform Routine Maintenance
This simple upkeep process can extend the life of your water heater, save you on energy costs, and make the unit safer overall. At a minimum, you should drain around five gallons out once or twice a year to see what the water looks like. If you notice there are a lot of debris you might want to consider a complete flush to clean out the tank. If you are able, turn your thermostat off before you go to work and begin the draining process once you get home. This way, you don’t have the added worry of working with hot water. You drain your tank empty, then turn the water back on while the drain is still open to complete the flushing process. Once this is complete, close the drain and let the water heater refill. This will take around an hour, and you should have hot water again.
Inspect your tank for cracks or soot marks while it is drained. If you have gas lines, check them for leaks or weak spots, and look for any corrosion on the pipes. If you notice any soot marks, corrosion, or cracks you can contact the manufacturer is still under warranty, and they’ll send out a professional to take a look and replace parts if they find in necessary.
4. Know Where the Water Heater’s Shutoff Valve is Located
This is an important step because the more you know when a problem occurs, the easier it will be to fix. A lot of the shutoff valves are located on the top of the water heater on the side that operates the cold piping. This is where the special tools mentioned above will come in handy. You should also add a small stepladder in case you can’t reach the valve quickly and there’s a water heater leak somewhere.
5. Have a Clear Area Around Your Water Heater
According to the State Water Heater Regulations, your water heater must have a clear space around the entire perimeter. If you have a gas water heater, it needs room for air to circulate so it can breathe and run correctly. It’s also good to know that if your water heater is smothered by possessions, it can get too warm and damage to the burner chamber can happen. This increases the chances of a carbon monoxide leak. Secondly, you need to see around the unit so you can catch any leaks quicker. If your water heater is buried, you have a greater chance of missing leaks when they begin, and you might not catch it until there is significant damage. The final and most obvious point are it’s a fire hazard. The more things you have packed around the water heater, the more possibilities of anything catching on fire.
6. Keep An Emergency Info Sticker on the Water Heater
Should you ever have any problems with your water heater, this sticker will give you easy access to important 24-hour emergency phone numbers as well as a step by step guide to shutting your water heater down. If you don’t have one of these stickers, you can call the company who installed it, and they’ll be happy to send you one.
Properly maintaining your water heater is crucial and should be added to anyone’s to-do list. You’re preventing a possible problem from becoming something worse, or in some cases, even deadly. You owe it to yourself and your family to be responsible and maintain a clean and efficient water heater.