Follow our guide to properly maintain your water heater
When was the last time you drained and flushed your water heater? If the answer is more than a year ago or—worse—”never”, you need to take action.
Annual water heater maintenance helps your water heater work more effectively and efficiently. It also helps prevent problems and can extend its lifespan by several years.
In this article, we’ll review everything you need to know to maintain your water heater and provide you with a step-by-step guide to water heater maintenance. Let’s jump right in!
Do water heaters need maintenance?
Yes. Far too many homeowners let their water heaters go without maintenance for years, which can vastly shorten the lifespan of the system and lead to a number of other problems—not the least of which is the potential for a tank leak and ensuring water damage!
How often should I flush my water heater?
Ideally, you should drain and flush your water heater at least once every year. If possible, do this twice per-year: it helps to remove the sediment and corrosion buildup inside of the tank.
But, as long as you maintain your water heater annually, you should be in good shape moving forward.
How do I maintain my water heater?
Below, we’ll outline several easy steps for maintaining your water heater. If, at any point, you get stuck, run into unexpected issues, or just need the help of a professional, give our team a call.
#1. Turn off the power and cold water supply
Before getting started, you’ll need to cut the power and turn off the cold water supply line to the water heater. If you have an electric water heater, this typically involves turning the system’s circuit off. For a gas system, turn off the gas valve and shut the system off.
One final safety tip: when working with your water heater, wear safety gloves, goggles, and closed-toe shoes or boots. You’re dealing with hot water, so dress appropriately. Open all valves slowly and carefully.
#2. Test the pressure-relief valve
The water heater’s pressure-relief valve—located on the exterior of the tank, near the top—is a critical safety feature that prevents excess pressure from building up inside the system. Yours should have a PVC pipe that hangs down.
Position a bucket beneath it and lift the valve. Release some water into the bucket, and then stop lifting it.
At this point, the pressure-relief valve should switch back down and the water flow should stop. If it doesn’t, keep draining it until it does. You’ll want to have our plumbers install a new valve—this is a sign that yours is “sticking” in the open position.
#3. Look at the anode rod
Your water heater’s anode rod protects the tank’s interior from corrosion. Basically, think of the anode rod like a bug zapper, attracting all the corrosive materials to it so that the tank walls remain unaffected.
However, attracting all that corrosion eventually destroys this sacrificial rod. Using a socket wrench, pull out the anode rod. If yours is looking like it’s literally been eaten through, you need to call our team and have our plumbers out to replace it.
Installing a new anode rod can help extend the lifespan of your water heater. Once your current anode rod is gone, the corrosion it was attracting will start to attack the tank walls. From that point, it’s only a matter of time before the water heater fails.
#4. Drain the water heater
There’s a drain valve located near the bottom of the water heater tank. You should be able to attach a common garden hose to it. Make sure this connection is secure, but don’t overtighten—you’ll want to eventually get the hose back off! Place the other end of the hose in either a bucket, or run it out to your yard.
If you go with the bucket approach, you’ll need to drain in waves, occasionally stopping to empty the bucket out as it gets full.
Either way, start draining the water heater tank. You should notice that the water coming out has some sediment in it. That’s natural.
If you’re seeing a lot of rust and corrosion, however, it could be a sign of deeper problems for your water heater.
#5. Flush out everything else
With your water heater completely drained out, and the hose still attached and in position, turn on the cold water supply valve again. This will, in effect, wash out the inside of the water heater.
You should see the same sediment-filled water at the start, but—as you go—the water should start to clear up. That’s your sign that the process is working and you’ve successfully removed most of the built-up sediment at the bottom of the tank.
When you feel the water is relatively clear, turn off the cold water supply. Close the valve and remove the hose.
You’re now good to turn back on the power and cold water supply valve. You’ve successfully drained and flushed your water heater.
When should I call in a plumber?
If you’re unsure about completing any of the steps above, or notice there are issues with your water heater, you should give us a call.
Get a free VIP plumbing inspection
We offer free VIP plumbing inspections here in Chicago and Northwest Indiana. We’ll send one of our experienced, licensed plumbers out to your home to take a closer look at your water heater, diagnose the issue, and talk to you about your next steps.
We can replace your older water heater
If you’re at the point where you need to replace your water heater, we can help with that, too! We install both standard and tankless water heaters.
Our plumbers will handle everything. If your current water heater is nearing the end of its lifespan, it’s time to upgrade to the efficiency and reliability of a new system.
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