No one wants to wake up to a failed water heater, which is why regular maintenance is necessary. You can actively prevent surprise break downs by taking the time to care for this appliance properly.
1. Insulate the Tank
An insulated hot water heater maintains heat better and more evenly, which results in less energy usage. Although the tanks themselves are insulated, this is rarely sufficient for preventing heat loss.
Hot water heater blankets are a type of insulated cover that can be affixed around your tank to help prevent heat loss. Your service tech will cut and fit the blanket to your specific tank model.
It’s also a good idea to insulate the supply pipes that exit from your hot water heater. You can purchase pipe insulation covers suitable for this purpose.
2. Adjust the Temperature
Overly hot water doesn’t just lead to unnecessary increases in your energy usage and costs, but it can also be dangerous. The chances of a scald occurring from a faucet drastically increase the hotter the heater setting. As a general rule of thumb, set the hot water heater to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. This is hot enough to kill most bacteria but cool enough to avoid burns.
Another issue that occurs when the temperature is set too high is that water can boil in the tank, which can lead to pressure issues and damages to the hot water heater.
Not all hot water heaters have the temperature marked on the setting dial. You can verify the temperature of your hot water by running the hot water from a tap for a few minutes. Then, fill a glass and use a food thermometer to determine the temperature. From there you can adjust the dial higher or lower.
3. Flush the System
Hard water deposits and sediment builds up in a hot water heater tank over time. The sediment reduces the capacity of the tank, which can lead to less hot water. A thick layer of sediment may also reduce the heat transfer to the water. For these reasons, it’s recommended that the tank is flushed once a year — especially if your area has hard water.
A heater flush isn’t very involved. Hoses are connected to the heater and the water and sediment is drained out. Then the valves are closed and the heater is filled with fresh water. The tech then tests that everything is working properly.
Put a sticker on the side of the tank or on the wall by the tank that lists the date and types of maintenance performed. This way you can quickly check to see if your hot water heater is due to be flushed again soon.
4. Inspect the Anode Rods
The anode rods inside your hot water tank are made of specific metals that attract certain types of sediment, such as iron rust. The idea is that the sediment coats the rods, instead of compromising your tank.
Over time, the rods corrode away or become encased in sediment, so they need to be replaced. Make sure your service tech checks the rods during your annual service tune-up.
Plan to replace the anode rods every five years. This simple task and inexpensive repair can extend the life of your hot water heater and keep it working efficiently.
5. Test the Pressure Valve
The pressure valve on your hot water heater is vital for safety. If your heater malfunctions and pressure builds up in the tank, the valve is designed to safely disperse the pressure so you don’t have an explosion.
Pressure valves can become stuck due to rust or corrosion. Test that they’re working properly by locating the test lever atop the valve. Place a bucket underneath the valve and lift the lever so that water comes out. If water doesn’t flow, then schedule a maintenance visit to have the valve repaired.
Test your pressure relief valve every six months. One way to remember is to perform the test during the twice annual time change, at the same time you test your smoke detectors.