People rely on water heaters for soothing showers and clean clothes and dishes. These brilliant devices aren’t typically thought about much, but they sure are noticed when things go wrong with them. The standard water heater can last anywhere between eight and twelve years as long as it’s properly maintained. The following will explore a few simple things you can do to keep your water heater cared for and running optimally for as long as possible.
It’s important to note that the following tasks are all part of routine servicing. You can do them all yourself with a few personal items (a screwdriver and a bucket). This being said, if you’re uncomfortable for any reason or not feeling confident in your ability to complete the below tasks, it is completely okay to call a water heating specialist and have them do the standard maintenance tasks. It’s always a good idea to trust your judgment.
Turning Off The Power
For most water heater maintenance, you’ll need to know how to turn off the power if your water heater is electric by switching off the circuit breaker in your home’s breaker box. If your heater is powered by gas, turn off the gas supply by turning the pilot knob to the position labeled OFF. Having your water heater turned off will keep you safe while you’re working.
Conduct A Mini-Flush
A mini-flush will help slow down the development of rust or other corrosion by getting rid of any sediment piling up at the bottom of the tank (this also improves energy efficiency and, therefore, saves you money on utilities—you’re welcome). Put a bucket beneath the drain valve (usually located around the bottom of the water tank) and turn the valve counterclockwise until somewhere between one and two gallons of water has come out. Be extremely cautious during this step as the water will be very, very hot. When done, close the valve by turning it clockwise.
Check Up On Your Anode Rod
Within your water heater, there is a part called the anode rod. What this piece does is attract any sediment that might be within the water to itself as the water is being heated. This keeps the sediment from being in the water that you use. Over time, due to all the collected sediment, the anode rod can begin to corrode. This is completely normal and is exactly what the anode rod is designed to do.
If you look inside (having taken proper safety precautions and turned the water and power off), you should be able to tell what state the anode rod is in. If it looks like a squirrel has been nibbling on it, leaving odd indentations everywhere, this is a good indication that you need to change the anode rod. Older water heaters or water systems designed to produce very soft water tend to go through anode rods faster than newer systems that don’t soften the water too much.
Test The Temperature And Pressure Valve
The temperature and pressure relief valve is an essential aspect of your water heater. This is what senses dangerous pressure buildups or extremely high temperatures within the water heater tank and reacts by automatically opening to relieve the pressure. Without this vital organ, your water heater could potentially explode. It’s a good idea to test the temperature and pressure valve at least once per year.
Start by placing your bucket beneath the discharge tube, which is connected to the temperature and pressure valve. Then, lift the lever on the valve to open it manually. This process will release hot water through the discharge tube. Again, it will be extremely hot water, so be careful. After the water has flowed for a few seconds, you can let go of the lever. The lever will then move back into place, and the water will be shut off.
Lower The Temperature
Often, water heaters are set to somewhere between 130 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. This being said, most people don’t need things set this hot. 120 degrees Fahrenheit is what is recommended by the U.S. Department of Energy. Not only will you not notice this difference, but it can also help you save money on utilities. The temperature can be adjusted on the thermostat. Sometimes a flat head screwdriver is needed to change the setting.
If the above steps are followed regularly, you’ll know that your water heater is being well cared for. Again, if you’re feeling unsure about completing one of these tasks yourself, it’ okay. There’s nothing wrong with getting a professional to come and take a look.