If you have a water heater in your home it’s likely that if you don’t take the proper precautions to prevent sediments and limescale from building up in your heater that build-ups are likely.
In this guide, we take a look at what sediments may be building up, what issues they may cause, and offer troubleshooting tips to easily solve any issues you may be having as a result of this.
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What Are Sediments In A Water Heater?
You may be wondering what sediments are, well sediments are mineral deposits that are usually found in every water heater, regardless of whether it is new or old.
These mineral deposits can be found at the bottom of the tank, they are often not floating through the water.
They cling to the heater’s elements and are particularly drawn to this part of the water heater when it is powered on.
The amount of sediments in your water tank is influenced by how hard your water is and also both the efficiency and presence of the self-cleaning system which is built into most water heaters.
If you filter a sample of your water you can visibly see the sediments as they are solid shapes that look like sand.
Even limescale can build up and rust. Rust deposits are a direct result of aggressive water action when the tank begins to corrode.
This corrosion is due to a lack of rust protective elements, such as metal tank lining or an anode rod.
Common Problems Caused By Sediment Build-Up In Water Heaters
Over time, the sediments in the plumbing and water heater will eventually cover key elements of the water heater, including the electric heating elements, gas burners, as well as clogging the valves, faucets, and leading to a reduced water flow.
These problems can severely impact the efficiency and performance of your water heater as well as impact the power output, causing such damage that you need to replace the heater within a number of years.
The one positive to take from all of the above is that by keeping an eye out for the warning signs you will know when to drain and flush your water heater to solve issues quickly and prevent damage.
The most common tell-tale signs of sediments in your water tank would be:
- water pressure is reduced
- water output is reduced
- water temperature fluctuates
- you may also hear sounds such as popping, sizzling or rumbling
Limescale is another issue that can affect water heaters and cause a buildup.
When the water is heated, the limescale is in an optimal environment to increase and cling to the heater elements.
Deliming the water heater is an important part of water heater maintenance and should be included in the process of removing sediments from water heaters to get rid of any buildup.
If the problems above are ignored for a long period or if the buildup of sediments and limescale is too significant you may not be able to treat the tank and you may need to purchase a new appliance which can be extremely expensive.
How To Remove Sediments From Water Heaters
The most effective way to deal with a buildup of both sediments and limescale in your home heater is to flush and drain the appliance.
We explain how to do this process below.
Draining The Tank And Cleaning Manually
Draining your water tank yearly is a great way of lengthening the appliance’s life span and can be done more frequently if you are having issues with sedimentary build-ups.
This process can be done easily with just a few basic tools necessary.
- Garden Hose
- Flat-Head Screwdriver
- Turn the water supply to the water heater off by adjusting the valve at the top of the water heater.
- Next, you will need to turn off the water heater itself. To do so, turn the thermostat to the PILOT setting if you have a gas water heater, or if you have an electric water heater simply turn off the power at the breaker box.
- Now that everything is powered off, attach the garden hose to the drain valve at the bottom of the tank. There may be a cover over the valve on some models so it may be more difficult to find.
Take the opposite end of the hose and put it in a large bucket, floor drain, or lead it into the bathroom and place it in the bath, the water will be hot as it drains from the heater so ensure the hose is secured to avoid any potential burns.
- Locate the hot water tap nearest to the water heater, this will normally be in a bathroom on the floor above the closet your tank is stored in.
This step relieves the pressure in the tank which means the water heater will drain faster.
- Open the drain valve, this is the valve you have already connected the garden hose to. The hot water will begin to drain, be careful as it will be hot.
Once the hot water has been drained, turn back on the cold water supply valve at the top of the tank, this will stir up any buildup.
Turn the valve off again and allow the cold water to drain out. Continue to repeat this process until the water is running clear.
- Once this process is complete simply close the drain, remove the hose and turn back on the cold water supply at the top of the appliance.
It is worthwhile placing a towel or a bucket under the drain valve in case of leaking when the tank begins to fill.
Allow the unit to fill and then turn back on the electric or gas to enable the appliance to heat up. Allow the tank some time to heat the water before use to prevent any damage.
- In addition, make sure you flush the system thoroughly after each draining. The easiest way to do this is to run hot water through the entire system.
If you are unable to drain the water heater it is possible that there is a blockage in the drain valve due to sediment buildup and we advise seeking help from a professional as the valve may need to be replaced.
Other Methods To Remove Sediments From Water Heaters
There are other ways to remove sediment from a water heater (see also our guide on how to drain a water heater) but they are not as effective as flushing draining your water heater, as explained above.
Some other methods that can be used that are effective against less severe buildups include:
Flushing With Hot Water
This method involves flushing the entire tank with hot water. It is recommended that you use a pressure washer to do so.
A pressure washer is a device that uses pressurized water to clean items.
Pressure washers are commonly used for cleaning windows, cars, boats, etc.
However, using a pressure washer to flush a water heater is effective because it allows the water to reach areas that cannot be reached otherwise.
Using High-Pressure Cleaner
This method involves using a high-pressure cleaner to dislodge the sediment and limescale.
You can use this method on a regular basis to keep your water heater performing at peak levels but be sure to not direct the end of the hose directly at the water heaters elements as this can damage, or loosen these parts.
Removing The Tank And Replacing The Unit
Replacing the whole unit is the last resort. It is usually only needed if the other methods have failed to work.
This method requires professional help.
If you attempt this job yourself, there is a chance that you could make things worse and you could cause damage to the rest of your home and your own physical being.
There are also some chemical treatments that can be used to dissolve the sediments in a water heater.
There are many different kinds of chemicals available for this purpose, but some of the most common ones include:
Sodium Hydroxide – This is one of the safest options for dissolving sediment buildup.
It works quickly and effectively, but should only be used under supervision or with the necessary safety precautions, such as gloves and goggles.
This chemical is also known as caustic soda.
Hydrochloric Acid – This is another option for removing sediment buildup.
Be careful not to overuse this solution as it can cause damage to plumbing fixtures and pipes.
Chlorine Bleach – Bleach is another useful cleaning agent, but again, make sure to follow all safety precautions.
If you are using chemical treatments you will need to ensure that you have the means to properly flush and drain the water heater after use to ensure that there are no remnants of these powerful chemicals in your drinking water.
Chemical treatments should be left to the professionals to prevent any danger or you can use cleaning formulas that can be bought in stores such as Walmart and Target that contain these chemicals and come with detailed instructions for use.
How To Prevent Sediment Build-Ups In Water Heaters
The most common way to maintain a water heater is to change the filter every six months.
The filter will clog over time and hinder the flow of water through the system.
If you notice any signs of sediment build-up such as discoloration or bubbles in the water then that can also signify that it is time for a new filter.
Changing the filter will prevent sediment buildup and improve the efficiency of the water heater.
When maintaining a water heater, it is important to remember these tips:
- Always check the temperature gauge before turning on the heating element.
- Turn off the power supply when changing filters.
- Keep the thermostat set between 120 °F–140 °F (49 °C–60 °C).
- Check the air vents on the top of the tank regularly.
- Make sure the lid is properly secured.
- Change the filter every 6 months.
- check the level of the water in your tank every month to ensure there aren’t any leaks
We hope that this guide has helped you and that you now know how to both treat and prevent sediment buildup in the water heater in your home.
Maintaining your water heater after solving any issues you may have been experiencing is a great way of preventing a repeat of these events and will also help to extend the life of your appliance.
Always practice caution when maintaining water heaters as they can be a safety concern when they are not managed properly.
If you do not feel comfortable with what you are doing then call a professional, they will be able to assist you and rectify the problem easily and confidently.