Water heater maintenance is a preventative maintenance method that must be performed regularly to ensure that your water heater remains effective and safe to use. It will not only save you from the potential costs of getting a new water heater should your current one decide to retire, but it will also decrease your utility expenses since it will keep it more energy-efficient, especially in the long run.
In this article, we are going to share with you a quick water heater maintenance checklist that can significantly increase your water heater life in its optimal condition. And remember this is not a repair guide, if you need to fix water heater issues you should call a licensed plumber to diagnose and solve the problem.
Before we start, please make sure that you have turned off your water heater at least a night before attempting any of the steps that we are going to share with you below. This will allow the water to cool down adequately for you to perform water heater maintenance. You don’t want to injure yourself with scalding water, after all.
Step 1: Water Heater Pressure Relief Valve
Think of your water heater pressure relief valve as the safety net that makes your water safe to use. Its purpose is to regulate and automatically relieve the pressure within your heater if it gets too high to prevent an explosion.
Thus, it is certainly one of the most critical parts of your water heater that you should check on a regular basis.
Fortunately, it is actually easy to do so. All you need to do is simply lift its lever (this is usually located on the side or top part of your water heater) and see if there’s water coming out of the discharge pipe. If you don’t see any water coming out, then it’s a sign that your valve needs to be replaced.
There are a lot of resources online that will teach you how to replace pressure relief valves. We highly recommend video demonstrations since they are easier to follow.
Step 2: Water Heater Core Flush
One of the most common issues that prevent a water heater from functioning correctly is the collected dust, debris, and sediment buildup that might be lurking in your tank. That’s why the water heater core flush is the second step in our water heater maintenance checklist.
We recommend performing this step every six months if you want to extend the average life of the water heater.
To perform a water heater core flush, then the first step is to check the water inside. Drain a couple of gallons into a bucket and inspect the water. How is it looking? If it is full of debris then it’s a sign that you should perform a full cleaning.
Even self-cleaning water heaters that come with automatic flushing features will still need to get checked every three years.
This step can also be performed during tankless water heater maintenance.
Step 3: Water Heater Insulation
One of the best features that come with newer water heater models is their built-in insulation. Unfortunately, older water tanks will probably need more help. Check if yours came with one. It should ideally have an R-value of at least 24.
Don’t know your water heater’s R-value? According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the easiest way to determine whether your tank came with water heater insulation (or if it needs one) is to just touch your tank.
If it’s warm to the touch, then it needs insulation which you can add yourself. It is very easy to do. In fact, there are water heater insulation blanket kits that you can purchase for added convenience. And if not, then you can move on to the next step.
Step 4: Water Heater Anode Rod
Another factor that can determine how long a water heater lasts is the anode rod. It is a piece of metal installed in your water heater to attract all of the corrosive particles to prevent the tank from rusting.
Anode rods typically last for three to five years. However, there are certain conditions that can hasten that life span. The problem is, neglecting to replace a completely corroded water heater anode rod will put your tank at great risk of rusting and incurring permanent damage.
Fortunately, it is very easy to replace. There are some models that even allow the installation of a second water heater anode rod to extend the life of the first one.
Step 5: Water Heater Ventilation Requirements
Finally, you need to make sure that your tank meets water heater ventilation requirements. Giving your water heater enough space to breathe is essential to prevent fires. Do not crowd it.
How do you know if your water heater has poor air ventilation? The answer will depend on how much energy your heater needs to function. The general rule of thumb is water heaters usually need 50 cubic feet of air per 1000 BTUs per hour.
This is the reason why we highly recommend installing a water heater in a space that will give it enough room. Otherwise, you might want to consider installing vents, especially for those who have a water heater in a closet or small room.
It is also a good idea to clear at least two feet of space around your water heater. Keep in mind that the amount of clutter in a room can also impact the amount of air available. Not to mention that it can also hinder you from performing routine inspections and maintenance tasks.
Don’t worry, as long as you stay proactive in your preventative maintenance steps, we are confident that your water heater will last longer and no unnecessary accidents will occur. We also recommend for you to seek professional help if there’s any task that you are not confident performing on your own. Keep in mind that the expenses that you might need to make today can ensure that your water heater is always in optimal condition and save you from the massive cost of neglect in the future.