Your water heater is one of the most frequently used appliances in your home. Typically a water heater’s life span is between 15-20 years depending on how well it is maintained and cared for. With regular maintenance, you can keep your water heater at peak performance, and spot a problem before its too late…
Test the TPR Pressure Valve
Shut off the power and the cold-water supply valve. Place a bucket under the pipe connected to the temperature-pressure-release (TPR) valve on the top or side of the tank. (This valve opens if the tank pressure gets too high.) Lift the valve’s tab to let some water out, then let go. If water keeps flowing, the valve has failed and needs to be replaced to avoid possible explosion from pressure build up in the tank.
Check the Anode Rod
Shut off the power and the cold-water supply valve. Hook up a hose to the water heater’s drain valve and let out a few gallons of water (be sure to place the other end of the hose outside, preferably near plants to recycle the drained water). Unscrew the hex shaped rod located on the top of the water heater (or under its top plate). If it’s less than ½ inch thick or coated with calcium or other build up, it may be time to replace the rod.
Drain Your Tank and Empty Sediment
This should be done annually or in accordance with the water heater’s manufacturer instructions.Shut off the power and the cold-water supply valve. Hook up a hose to the water heater’s drain valve and drain the the water heater completely (be sure to place the other end of the hose outside, preferably near plants to recycle the drained water). Once drained, stir up the sediment on the tank’s bottom by briefly opening the cold-water supply valve. Drain and repeat until clean water comes out of the hose. Close the drain valve, refill the tank, and turn its power back on.
Adjust the Temperature
Find the temperature dial on the side of the tank and unscrew its cover (newer models are typically more easily accessible). Adjust the temperature dial to 120 degrees. For every 10 degrees the temperature is lowered, you can expect to save up to 5 percent in energy costs. Turn the water heater off or the thermostat down to its lowest setting if you plan to be away from home for more than three days.
Insulate the Pipes
Most hardware or plumbing supply stores carry foam pipe insulation in various sizes to match your pipes’ diameter. Slide the foam over the hot- and cold-water pipes as far as you can reach. Insulating the cold-water pipe prevents condensation in summer. Take care not to use foam insulation within 6 inches of the water heater’s exhaust flue as it may melt or burn. In these cases, a fiberglass insulation may be necessary.
Look for drips, leaks or accumulated water underneath your hot water heater.
Check out the flame if you use a gas water heater – it should burn mostly blue, not yellow.
Take note if the water in your shower is either too hot or too cold, or doesn’t reflect the temperature to which the water heater is set.
Rust coming out of your faucet could be a sign that your heater needs help.
Also keep an eye out for any bending or cracking in the water heater tank, which could be an indication that it’s time to buy a replacement.
Consider installing a timer that allows you to set your water heater to operate at peak usage hours.
Consider purchasing a Hot Water Recirculating Pump – this is an attachment to your water heater that reduces the amount of wait time for hot water in your home.
Insulate Your Water Heater – Check manufacturers details on areas to avoid insulating.