man working wrench on water heater

How to Maintain Your Home’s Hot Water Heater

Hot water is an oft-overlooked luxury that is taken for granted, at least until it’s not available, so knowing how to maintain your hot water heater before disaster strikes is an excellent idea. But to be fair, hot water heater maintenance is not an activity that typically finds its way onto most homeowner DIY maintenance checklists, which is unfortunate because neglect this facet of home care can result in:

  • higher overall energy costs
  • reduced equipment lifespan
  • reduced efficiency
  • damaged property/equipment

The good news is that hot water heater maintenance is simple, and many of the preventative maintenance steps you can take only require about an hour or so, and a minimal amount of hand tools.

Maintaining Your Hot Water Heater

These steps should be performed annually to ensure that both your water heater’s pressure-relief valve and tank are respectively functioning and free of sediment. If your water heater is electric, turn off power to it at the main panel; if your water heater is gas, extinguish the pilot light, turn off the cold-water supply line to the water heater then begin the following steps.

Check the Pressure Valve

Place a bucket under the drain pipe, lift up the water heater pressure valve. If no water comes out or if the valve leaks after closing, replace the valve.

Check Anode Rod (Tank Models)

In short, anode rods are made of either magnesium, aluminum, or an aluminum/zinc alloy that fits in the center of the water heater, whose purpose is to protect the inside of the tank by attracting and bonding corrosive agents to its surface.

These rods are located at the top of the tank, and can typically be removed with a hex-shaped tool. If the rod is coated with calcium or less than ½ inch thick, replace it.

Drain the Tank and Wash Out Sediment

Drain any remaining water in the tank, flush with cold water from the supply line, and continue draining until water is sediment-free. Allow the tank to completely drain before continuing to the next step.

Close All Valves and Refill the Hot Water Tank

Remove any drain hoses and buckets after closing both the drain and pressure relief valves. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for restarting the pilot light on gas water heaters. Before turning on power to your electric hot water heater, first run a hot water faucet for three minutes minimum to ensure the tank is full. Failure to do so may result in burning out the upper heating element.

Why Water Heater Maintenance Matters

By performing these steps every year, you are ensuring that you are getting the most out of your water heater by expanding both its lifespan and efficiency, which in turn saves you money. If you are looking for another annual maintenance task to add to your homeowner honey-do list, regular water heater maintenance may be worth looking into.

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