by Fran J. Donegan for The Home Depot
Storage tank water heaters are the type of appliance that can hum along for years. Once installed, they don’t need constant attention. However, they do require maintenance to keep them running at peak efficiency. These are mostly simple tasks that you can do yourself, but you can also hire a pro to perform regular maintenance for you. Here are some tips on how you can keep your water heater working proficiently, and how often it will need maintenance.
Understanding Your Water Heater
Be sure to review the owner’s manual that came with your water heater. It usually spells out necessary maintenance tasks, as well as other important information, such as safety precautions and size specifications. When in doubt, refer to the manual. If you can't find the manual, check the manufacturer’s website for instructions on obtaining a copy.
Consult a professional before attempting any maintenance tasks, and make sure that the water line and the power to the water heater are safely shut off before beginning.
Keep the area around the water heater free of clutter. Gas heaters have vents at the bottom that must be kept clear to aid in the heating element combustion. Never store anything with flammable vapors, such as gasoline or paint thinner, near a gas water heater. Providing a clear space around the appliance makes it easy to get to the water shutoff in an emergency. It also gives repairmen room to work on the heater, should a service call be necessary.
Every Few Months
Drain some of the tank’s water to remove the sediment that collects on the bottom of the tank. All incoming water contains sediment that, over time, can hinder the performance of your water heater. The amount you need to drain will depend on the condition of the water.
The frequency of this procedure will depend on the condition of your water. If the water is perfectly clear from the start, you probably don't need to drain your tank often. If the water is very dirty, you may need to drain it more frequently.
Test the temperature/pressure-relief valve. It's located near the top of the storage tank and should be attached to a long tube that extends almost to the bottom of the tank. The valve is designed to relieve pressure that builds up above acceptable levels inside the tank.
Check to make sure the venting system is operating properly on your gas water heater. On top of the tank is a draft hood raised above the flue, which is located inside the tank. The hood should be attached to connectors that run to the chimney. If the flue is not drawing adequately, gases that should be going up the chimney could be lingering into the room.
Every Few Years
Check the anode rod, and replace it, if necessary. The rod is usually made of aluminum, magnesium, zinc, or a combination of corrodible metals, and is suspended inside the tank. Its purpose is to attract any corrosive elements in the water. The theory is that any corrosion that attacks the rod will not attack the inside walls of the tank. Eventually, corrosion will get the best of the rod, and a new one must take its place.
Keeping your water heater running at optimal performance can
save you from needing to replace the unit more often than necessary. Performing
regular maintenance will ultimately help extend the life of your water heater,
which should be a priority for all homeowners.
Fran Donegan is a DIY and home maintenance writer and author of the book, “Paint Your Home.” He also provides advice for The Home Depot. You can research The Home Depot's water heaters online that are available for homeowners.