Keep Your Water Heater Maintained To Avoid Throwing Cold Water On Your Holiday Season
How often do you think about your hot water heater's maintenance schedule? If you're like most people, the answer is probably "not enough." This is can be especially true around the hectic holiday season when it is all too common to have too much to do and too little time to do it. Unfortunately, neglecting maintenance on this vital item can lead to costly repairs that will throw cold water all over your holiday festivities.
Although major maintenance or repairs on your water heater will require the assistance of a professional, there are many basic tasks you can perform to keep your hot water heater running as smoothly as Santa's sleigh.
Be Safe: Shut Off the Water, Electricity, and Gas
Before performing any of these maintenance steps, keep yourself and your water heater safe by shutting off the water supply to the unit. If your water heater is electric, you should also shut off the electricity to the heater. Alternately, if your heater is gas you should shut off the gas supply. These lines should all be clearly marked, but if in doubt you may need to call a professional. Allowing some time to pass so that water inside the tank can cool is a good idea as well. If your water heater is a gas model, you may need to relight the pilot light once you are done with your maintenance.
Drain the Tank Regularly
One of the most common issues with water heaters is the buildup of sediment along the bottom of the tank. This sediment prevents the heating elements from properly heating the water and can—if allowed to go on for long enough—lead to the elements burning out. To prevent this, you should fully drain your water heater at least once a year.
Consult your owner's manual for details on your specific model, but draining the water from the tank of most heaters is relatively simple. In most cases, you simply need to attach a hose to the heater's drain outlet and allow the water to flow out. Once empty, you should open the tank's water supply again to allow fresh water to flush out any remaining sediment. Once the water seems clean, simply turn off the water, close the drain valve, and turn the water back on to allow the tank to refill.
Check for Leaks
A simple preventative measure that you should take at least once or twice a year is to check your water heater's various connections for obvious leaks. Although you will likely need to consult a plumber to repair any serious leaks, finding these problems early can save you costly repair bills down the line. Leaks can commonly be found anywhere a fitting is located, including inlet and outlet pipes and near the relief valve.
Check for Anode Rod Corrosion
The anode rod is a bit like a lightning rod for corrosion. Through the process of electrolysis, the anode rod suffers corrosion while saving other exposed parts of your tank from the same fate. It is therefore important to check the anode rod regularly to be sure that its condition allows it to perform this vital job.
Usually, the anode rod will be located on the top of the tank and protected by a cover. You will usually need to use a socket wrench to fully remove the rod. Once it is out of the tank, ensure that the rod is still in generally good condition. This means that the rod should be intact, although some corrosion is perfectly normal (and in fact means that the rod is working as it should be). If the rod is falling apart or mostly gone, then it is time to replace it.