Water heaters are often ignored until a failure occurs. You don’t realize how much they do for you until they stop working. To help protect yourself from unexpected issues, it’s important to look out for signs of trouble and stay on top of smaller maintenance checks over time.
Performing a few maintenance tasks a couple of times a year can drastically extend the life and improve the efficiency of your water heater. Below are some tips for keeping your water heater functioning for a long time.
Perform regular maintenance checks to examine your water heater for any signs of leaking or damage. Check the joints for any gaps or water leakage as well as the body for any cracks.
It is important to act on any leaks that you see immediately, because a small leak can lead to things like flooding in your basement and damage to nearby belongings if not tended to very quickly.
Fixing a leak could be as easy as tightening up the pipes or it could be that a damaged pipe or part needs complete replacement. If the tank itself is cracked, then the water heater will need to be replaced.
Test the Pressure-Relief Valve
The pressure-relief valve is a built-in safety check for your water heater. It automatically releases pressure when it gets too high inside of the tank to prevent an explosion. It’s an important feature of the water heater that you want to make sure is functioning properly at all times.
To test it, simply lift the lever, which is located on the side or top of the water heater. If no water comes out of the discharge pipe when you lift the lever, then the valve needs to be replaced.
Flush the Tank
Every 6-12 months, drain a few gallons of water out of your water heater into a bucket to examine the water. If the water is full of dirt and debris, then you should perform a full cleaning of the water heater.
When debris builds up in the water heater tank, it can significantly cut down on the efficiency of your water heater and cause your energy bills to go up.
Some new self-cleaning water heaters automatically remove sediment for you but you’ll still want to flush and clean the tank every 3 years or so.
Check the Anode Rod
An anode rod is a piece of metal that is installed in a water heater to prevent the water heater tank from rusting. It achieves this by attracting all of the corrosion before it reaches the steel in the tank itself. The issue is that once the anode rod is fully corroded, then the steel tank can begin to rust and incur irreversible damage.
Every year, check the anode rod in the water heater and if it is almost or completely corroded then it is time to replace it with a new one. Anode rods tend to last around three to five years. On some models, it’s also possible to install a second anode rod to your water heater to extend its life as well.
Inspect Gas Lines
If your water heater is attached to gas lines, these are also important to inspect. Any cracks or corrosion on these pipes will need to be repaired as soon as possible. If you suspect there is gas leaking from a gas line, take all of the necessary safety precautions, as this can be extremely dangerous.
Add an Expansion Tank
Water expands when it is heated rapidly. If your water heater is in a closed system that does not allow for any backflow into the water main, there is nowhere for this water to go when it expands. These frequent changes in pressure that come with temperature fluctuations put great stress on a water heater.
By adding an expansion tank, you give the water an outlet and reduce wear and tear on the water heater.
Install a Water Softener
In some areas, the mineral content of water can be high, otherwise known as hard water. Hard water is much more likely to leave mineral deposits along the inside of the water heater tank and cut down its lifespan. Water softeners can be installed to reduce the build up of these deposits.
Give it Space
Do not crowd your water heater. There should be plenty of room around the water heater to allow you to easily inspect it for issues and perform maintenance tasks. It also needs room for air circulation, which will reduce the risk of fires.
Be proactive about maintaining the water heater in your home rather than just assuming it will always function properly when you need it. This will not only save you money, but it will also save you from massive headaches in the future.
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