Your home’s water heater accounts for approximately 20% of the total energy consumed in your home. It’s the second-largest energy user, coming in behind space heating. There are several steps you can take and hot water heater maintenance you can invest in to help ensure your unit is as efficient as possible.
Whether you have a tankless, electric, or gas water heater, regular maintenance of the unit in your home is the best way to ensure top performance and longevity.
The Importance of Your Home’s Water Heater
The water heater in your home is one of the most important appliances you have, as it supplies the hot water your family needs. Chances are, if you didn’t have hot water around your house, things might get ugly, quickly. Hot water is something we routinely take for granted until it is not there when we want it.
Regardless of the type of unit you have, when it comes to maintenance, they will typically fail into two categories:
- Units with tanks
- Units without tanks
On average, the water heater in your home should last between eight and 13 years, however, sometimes they may not last even that long, while others may last even longer than 13 years. How well you maintain your water heater will also impact how long it lasts.
Regardless of the type of tank you have, it requires regular TLC if you want it to continue to supply your family with hot water throughout its entire life. Keep reading to learn more about water heater maintenance and how to provide it for both tank and tankless models.
Electric and Gas Hot Water Heater Maintenance Tips
Conventional water heaters that have a tank will heat the water with either electricity or gas. Once heated, the water is stored in the tank until it is used.
If you want to extend the life of your tank water heater’s life, use the tips here.
Test the Unit’s Pressure Relief Valve
The unit’s pressure relief valve is a safety mechanism that keeps your water heater from exploding if excessive pressure builds up inside. You will notice a lever on the side of your unit with a long, plastic or copper discharge pipe that leads down from it.
If the pressure inside your tank reaches a level that is too high, the valve will open automatically to release the pressure. The discharge pipe directs the water flow to the floor, ideally away from the electrical panel, furnace, or other types of sensitive equipment.
It’s best to check the pressure relief valve a minimum of one time a year. You can provide maintenance by putting a bucket beneath the discharge pipe and lifting the lever. If water comes out of this pipe, you are good.
Use the lever for closing the valve. If the valve isn’t opened when you lift the lever, or if it leaks after you have tested it, it’s time to replace it.
Because of the hard water in Edmonton, these valves often require replacement after testing as the scale deposits often prevent it from resetting properly. However, it is better to test and ensure it is working with a chance of needing replacement than to have one that is seized closed and unable to relieve pressure.
Check the Anode Rod
Whether you have a gas or water heater, there will be an anode rod. This rod will take one for the team. Its job is to readily corrode rather than the inside of the tank, however, once it has completely corroded now the tank will corrode faster.
It’s best to replace the anode rod every five years. Doing this can increase the longevity of your unit significantly.
Before you begin this repair, be sure to shut off the power or gas going to your unit. Once off, switch the shutoff valve off, open one of the hot water taps in your home, open the pressure release valve, and then drain several gallons out of the tank.
If you notice any rust flakes in the water that comes out, it’s time to invest in a new unit. However, if the water is orange, this isn’t always a bad sign.
Look at the user manual to find out where the anode rod is. If you don’t have a hard copy, you can locate one online (in most cases). You may need to gather supplies, such as WD-40, or an impact wrench to break it free.
Once it’s loose, look for any links around the hex head. If there are any, you should drain some more of the water out of the tank before you do anything else.
If the rod appears corroded, or if the tank is five years old, or longer and you have never looked at it before, it’s a good idea to replace it. You can purchase a flexible rod if your heater is in a tight space.
Use a pipe thread sealant rather than a plumber’s tape, as the tape may make the anode rod less effective. Remove some more water or flush the tank thoroughly before turning the water and power back on.
Flush Your Tank
Flush the water heater tank each year to prevent the development of mineral sediment deposits from building up. If this happens, the deposits can speed up the corrosion of the steel tank from the inside.
Turn off the power or gas along with the cold-water supply to your tank before you try to flush it. Open a hot water tap in your home, along with the pressure release valve. You can then use a bucket or hose to drain the water out of the tank until it is clear and free from any sediment.
If there’s sediment present in the tank, you must drain it completely. After it’s drained, turn your cold-water supply on and let the cold water continue running through it until it is clear. Keep flushing the unit until there’s no sediment left.
Maintenance Tips for Tankless Water Heaters
A tankless unit will heat water on demand, rather than storing it in a tank.
Some units will let you know when maintenance is needed; however, you should still plan to perform maintenance each year. If you have hard water, this needs to be done more often.
Use the maintenance tips here for your tankless units.
Flush the Unit
If you need to flush your tankless unit, turn the power or gas off first. You also need to turn the cold water off going to the unit.
Shut off the valve that connects the hot water from your unit to your home. Attach your outside garden house to the sump pump outlet, and isolation valve that supplies cold water.
Attach a second piece of hose to the hot-water isolation valve. Put both of the hose ends and the pump, into a bucket. Fill your bucket with food-graded, fresh white vinegar.
Once complete, open the hot and cold isolation valves on the unit and turn the pump on. Allow the vinegar to circulate through your unit for approximately 45 minutes.
Once complete, throw out the vinegar and refill the bucket with plain water. Flush the unit again for approximately five minutes.
Clean Out the Air Intake Filter
When you are flushing your tankless unit with vinegar, you need to clean out the air intake filter. This is what keeps debris from getting into the unit. Cleaning it will help to keep the air flowing smoothly into your unit.
It’s possible to access the air intake filter by taking the faceplate of the unit off. Be sure to check your user manual for instructions specific to your unit.
After you have taken the filter out, rinse it carefully with clean water. Once rinsed, you can dry it with paper towels before you reinstall it.
Disconnect the hoses, screw all the services caps on tightly, and then open the hot and cold-water valves. At this point, you can restore power, and if you need to, the gas to the unit. Be sure to look for any leaks and address them, if needed.
When Water Heater Maintenance Isn’t Enough: Signs it Is Time for Repairs
While the purpose of water heater maintenance is to keep things running properly and efficiently, it’s not always enough. Because your water heater is used daily (and in most homes, multiple times per day), the wear and tear are going to result in damage over time and the need for repairs.
Some of the specific signs it is time to call for water heater repair are found here.
Irregular Water Temperatures
Have you noticed that your water isn’t always coming out as hot as it should? If your water temperatures fluctuate, it’s a good sign there’s something wrong with the unit.
At this point, contact a professional to find the underlying issue. Try to figure out when you first purchased the water heater, as well.
If your unit is still new (or relatively new), it can be repaired. However, if it is an older unit, you are often better off having it replaced. It is always disappointing when a homeowner pays to repair an old water heater only to have a non-repairable issue arise a month or 2 later. Make sure you weigh the cost of repair vs replacement carefully before repairing an old unit.
Several issues may cause your water heater to stop heating your water. The most common cause of this issue is mineral deposit accumulation. Mineral deposits can build up as time passes, cover the water-heating elements, and prevent them from working correctly.
If the water elements are faulty (and if this is the only problem), you can have them replaced or repaired. This is usually a better option than purchasing a completely new unit.
The water coming out of your tap should be colorless. It may seem hazy from time to time because of higher pressure but should turn colorless once the pressure evens out.
If you notice the water is rusty or brownish, or if there are dark particles present, it’s usually the water heater that is the problem.
Sedimentation can cause changes in water color, and it may appear brownish. If this is the situation, you may face a serious health hazard in your home.
It’s smart to have a professional clean your unit or to leave the water running to see if the color of the water returns to being colorless. If this doesn’t work, it may mean your tank is rusty inside.
The Hot Water Runs Out Faster Than Usual
Your water heater has the job of keeping your water hot and ready to use throughout your home. It has two heating elements inside, one at the top and one at the bottom.
At any time, your water heater will have several gallons of hot water inside it.
If you run out of hot water when you need it, it could mean that one of the heating elements inside isn’t working correctly. It may also mean you have a broken dip tube in the tank.
Strange Noises Coming From the Water Heater Tank
As your heating system gets older, it will begin buzzing subtly. However, as time passes, the sounds will grow and eventually be a rumbling sound. While you may think the tank is about to burst, don’t worry, this isn’t the case.
While it’s normal for your unit to make some noise, if it becomes a cracking, popping, or banging noise, you have a good reason to call the professionals.
Maintaining Your Hot Water Heater: Now You Know
When it comes to hot water heater maintenance, there are more than a few things you should keep in mind. While the tips and information here are helpful, at some point, calling the pros for help with this maintenance is a must.
Do you need professional water heater maintenance, or are you unsure you can handle it on your own? If that’s the case, contact us.
Our team has provided water heater maintenance and repairs for many years and can offer the same quality services to you.