Home Water Heater Maintenance [Definitive Guide]
Home water heater maintenance may be one of the tasks you put off — until it stops working and you wind up taking a cold shower.
Other than the seasonal heating and cooling required in the Cincinnati area, heating water is your home’s single biggest consumer of energy. A newer, high-efficiency water heater can go a long way toward you keeping energy usage (and costs) at a reasonable level.
Of course, how well you maintain your water heater has a huge impact on how long it lasts. Whether you have a gas, electric, or tank water heater versus a tankless water heater, your system needs regular maintenance to supply your family with hot water throughout its expected lifespan.
In this guide, we’ll cover:
- The benefits of regular water heater maintenance
- How often maintenance should be performed
- How to drain your water heater
- The checklist to a properly-maintained water heater
But before we get right into it….
If you live in the Cincinnati or Northern Kentucky area and would much rather leave your home’s water heater maintenance to the experts, book an appointment with Apollo Home here.
The Benefits of Regular Home Water Heater Maintenance
A dirty or poorly maintained water heater not only can drive up your energy costs but also may have a shorter usable life span. The good news is there are several things to keep your current water heater running efficiently. All which help drive down energy costs and increase the unit’s longevity.
Here are four major benefits of annual water heater maintenance:
Increased Efficiency and Saves You Money
If you’ve ever heard banging or knocking noises coming from your water heater, this is a sign you need to have your water heater flushed. Sediment buildup is common in water heaters. It also decreases your system’s efficiency. Loose minerals in the water cause sediment which then settle on the bottom. This causes uneven heating and makes it more difficult to produce hot water. A flush will likely help you save money on your next utility bill and get hot water faster.
Decrease the Likelihood Of Costly Breakdowns
New water heaters can run you as much as $2000. Yearly water heater maintenance catches water heater leaks, corrosion, or anything prohibiting your system’s peak potential.
Consistent Quality of Home Water System
Coming home to a flooded basement, a lack of water pressure, or stepping into a freezing shower are all experiences that would send a shiver down anyone’s spine. Yet these are all experiences easily avoided by regular water heater maintenance. Perform it and minimize the likelihood of problems. You’ll also ensure your water heater runs efficiently.
Extends the Lifespan of Your Water Heater
A tank water heater performs for 8-10 years, while a tankless water heater could last as much as 20 years. Choosing not to maintain your heater certainly lowers your system’s lifespan. Regular water heater maintenance helps you to identify the beginning of rust build-up, which is one of the main reasons why water heaters eventually require replacement.
How Often Should My Water Heater Be Serviced?
Just like any major piece of equipment or appliance in your home, service your Cincinnati water heater with a professional technician at least once every year. We generally recommend draining to remove the sediment from your water heater at least once a year, which can be combined with an annual maintenance visit. This helps to ensure the greatest supply of hot water to your home and also prevents the sediment from corroding the water heater’s components.
Time to schedule your water heater inspection? Book an appointment today!
How to Drain Your Water Heater
A water heater needs to be properly drained as part of its regular maintenance. If you do not properly maintain your water heater, it may cease to function altogether or result in cold bursts of water when least expected. Draining also helps ensure the long life of your water heater by flushing out minerals and other debris that may cause it to malfunction.
Here is a step by step guide to draining your home’s water heater:
Step 1: Shut Off Water Supply to Your Heater
Locate the water pipe and water shutoff valve going into the top of the heater. Turn this valve to turn off the water to the tank.
Step 2: Turn Off Power to The Heater
If your heater is electric, go to your circuit breaker box and turn the breaker off. If your water heater is gas-powered, shut off the gas by turning the valve on the gas supply line that runs to your system’s tank.
Step 3: Attach Hose to Drain Valve
After allowing your heater to cool down, attach one end of a hose to the drain valve at the bottom of the water heater. Then place the end in a bucket or find a nearby floor drain.
Step 4: Turn On Hot Water Tap Inside
To alleviate pressure, open a hot water tap as close to your heater as possible. This will likely be a sink faucet on the same level or in close proximity to the heater.
Step 5: Open Drain Valve
After opening this valve, water will start running out of the tank. Draining the entire heater can take up to 20-30 minutes depending on how full or dirty your heater is.
Step 6: Turn Water Back On to Flush the Tank
With your drain valve still open, turn the water back on to eliminate any remaining sediment on the bottom of your tank. Look for the water to start running clear, then you can turn the water valve off.
Step 7: Refill Your Tank
Unscrew the hose from your drain valve. Turn the water back on and start refilling the tank. Once the heater tank is full, turn the power back on to the heater.
Bonus: When Should You NOT Flush a Water Heater
If you’ve had your water heater for years and have never flushed it, it might be a mistake to start now. Why? Because after several years of build up from the hard water in Cincinnati, the build up may actually be plugging tiny holes in your heater tank. Flushing may actually set you up for a water leak and costly water damage.
If you’re concerned due to other symptoms of pending water heater failure, schedule an inspection with an Apollo Home plumber. He or she carefully assesses the situation so you are confident in your water heater’s status. In addition, you can take the opportunity to get a free estimate on a new tank or modern tankless water heater.
Water Heater Maintenance Checklist
During an annual service appointment of your water heater, your plumber completes several tasks to maintain efficient system operation and keep your unit clean. Here’s a list of items Apollo Home licensed plumbers inspect and complete during a thorough maintenance visit:
- Check the anode rod
- Inspect and test the drain valve
- Check the vents and flue baffle
- Confirm the igniter works
- Check the gas burner
- Verify the heating elements perform
- Clean the arrestor plate
- Check the gas valve
- Test the TPR valve
- Check the thermocouple
When Should I Replace My Water Heater?
A common sign of trouble with any water heater is often when utility bills start to rise. If your unit uses extra energy to provide the same amount of hot water, it’s time to look for the following symptoms:
Leaks are usually the result of pressure buildup inside the tank. This happens when the water pressure or temperature is too high, or when the unit’s relief valve is not working properly. A leaking water heater must be replaced immediately. Neglecting a leak can lead to a tank explosion.
Loud noises are an indication of sediment buildup. As sediment hardens, it can move around the tank and cause knocking, rumbling and gurgling sounds. To preserve your water heater and prevent premature deterioration, have it flushed regularly to remove any deposits from the tank’s heating elements.
Rusty, Cloudy or Cold Water
Rust-colored water, or water with a metallic odor, can mean a couple different things. Either the sacrificial anode rod needs to be replaced or the tank itself is beginning to rust, often due to corrosion at the steel lining. A corroded tank must be replaced as soon as possible.
Apollo Home Tackles Water Heater Installation and Repairs in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky
If you’re not sure how to do any of these self-maintenance tasks, we’re happy to show you how to flush and drain your unit during your next maintenance visit. We can also give you an honest assessment of your existing unit and determine whether it’s best to replace your current system.
Originally published August 2012, Updated August 2019
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"We scheduled an estimate AND a tune-up. We knew something was wrong with our furnace, but hoped we could make it through the rest of the season. Upon telling Bill what our furnace was doing, he warned us immediately what the possible outcome was going to be; a cracked heat exchanger. He watched the flames roll backward, tested carbon monoxide levels, which were so high they meter’s last reading was 5,600 before saying “high”. He immediately shut it down, tagged it, and explained that with levels that high and children in our home he wanted off right away. He continued his inspection and showed us via a camera that not only was it cracked in multiple places, but had holes all over it. He gave us a few options for repairing it; his knowledge as well as genuine concern was beneficial and refreshing. Luckily we also scheduled an estimator, Micah, to come too and we were able to get costs between repairing and replacing (with several options). We decided to replace with a much higher efficiency furnace and one sized properly to our home. Hands down, not only did they both provide us great service and knowledge, but without sounding dramatic, they may have saved our lives. This was our first time calling Apollo, but it won’t be our last."
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