article

Maintaining Your Hot Water Heater

By Sarah Kellner via Realty Times

bluehammer

Water heaters generally have a lifespan of 8-12 years, but as with anything, the better care you take of it, the longer it will last. There are several easy "set it and forget it" tips that you can use with your water heater, like keeping the thermostat at 120 degrees, and always maintain two feet of clearance around the appliance. You can also conserve money on your gas bill by setting your heater to its "vacation" setting when leaving town. This will keep the pilot light going without heating the water.

Water heater maintenance goes well beyond just checking the thermostat, however. Here are some detailed tips for making sure your water heater lives a long, full life.

Draining & Cleaning

The bottom of the tank can contain all manner of sediment, calcium deposits, rust and bacteria. Drain a quarter of the tank a few times a year to remove this debris. Hook up a garden hose to the drain valve and run until the water is clear.

A once-a-year full cleaning should include draining the appliance completely, removing the drain valve and then scrubbing the bottom with a long, narrow brush. From there, screw on a nipple, pump 15 or 20 seconds worth of fresh water into the tank, then drain, repeating the process until the water runs clear. This is the best chemical-free way to clean a water heater.

Testing the TPR Valve

Most experts recommend testing the temperature and pressure relief (TPR) valve on your water heater every six months for optimal performance. Frequent testing can also reduce the chance of a leak resulting from mineral salt, rust and corrosion buildup, or worse: an explosion.

To perform the test, slowly raise and lower the test lever so that it lifts the brass stem. At this point, hot water should rush out of the end of the drainpipe. If you get no water, or only a trickle, be sure to replace the valve. The main thing to watch for immediately after testing the TPR valve is a leak. If you do catch a leak, operate the test level a few more times to loosen the debris that could be preventing the valve from working correctly. If the valve is functioning properly, turn down the temperature on the water heater controller and turn down the water pressure.

Examining the Sacrificial Anode

'Sacrificial anode' is the fancy name for the rod of metal located in your water heater's tank that rusts easily so that the steel won't; it takes the fall, essentially. Sacrificial anodes in water heaters are made of highly corrosive metals like magnesium and aluminum.

bluehammer

To examine your heater's sacrificial anode you must first remove it. Start by shutting off the electricity or gas to the water heater, as well as the water supply. Drain a few inches of water from the tank via the tank valve. Locate the top of the anode rod or connecting hardware - it may be under a cap about halfway to the center, or it may be under a pink top nipple. Loosen the anode very carefully with a wrench. Here, it may be necessary to apply penetrating oil to the connecting nut or threads.

One you remove the anode, inspect it carefully. If it is covered in rough metal that looks like it's been chewed, that's normal and your anode is functioning properly. If you can see six inches or more of the steel core wire inside the anode, replace it. If not, put it back in place and check back in a year.

Insulating Older Units

When you insulate the walls in your house, you increase its energy efficiency, and the same is true with your water heater. Although newer units are optimized for insulation, many older units are not, and by insulating them, you could reduce heat loss by 25-45%. If you're not sure whether or not to insulate your appliance, simply touch it; if it's warm to the touch, it's time to insulate.

Before purchasing a water heater insulating blanket kit, check with your utility to see if they offer blankets at discounted rates. Some companies even install them for little-to-no cost.

To self-install, turn off the electricity to your heater at the breaker (or for gas, switch the valve to "pilot" position). Wrap the blanket around the heater and tape it temporarily, leaving open areas for the access panel(s), valves and for gas heaters, the burner areas. Then tape the blanket permanently, and be sure to never set the thermostat above 130 degrees because the wiring could overheat.

When to Replace?

If you own a conventional storage tank water heater and it's getting into the double digits in age, it's time to replace. However if your water heater is only a few years old, there are a few things that would only take about $150-300 to repair. These things include extinguished pilot lights, burner or heating elements failing, thermostats breaking, or valves sticking. The two precursors to replacement are usually either old age or a leak. When your water heater springs a leak that usually means it's time to face the music and buy a new one.

What are some other ways you care for your water heater?

Want to estimate your home improvement costs before talking with a contractor? Claim your home for free with bluehammer to estimate costs, secure your home inventory and learn more about your home.

* THIS REPORT IS AN OPINION THAT MAY BE INACCURATE AND IS PROVIDED SOLELY AS AN INFORMATIONAL TOOL NOT DESIGNED TO PROVIDE DEFINITIVE ANSWERS. ALL ELEMENTS ARE OFFERED “AS IS” AND BLUEBOOK EXPRESSLY DISCLAIM ANY AND ALL WARRANTIES, REPRESENTATIONS, AND GUARANTEES OF ANY NATURE, EXPRESS, IMPLIED OR OTHERWISE, INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO ANY IMPLIED WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABLITILY, NONINFRINGEMENT, TITLE, QUIET ENJOYMENT, ACCURACY, OR FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE. IN NO EVENT SHALL BLUEBOOK (OR THEIR SUPPLIERS) BE LIABLE FOR ANY GENERAL, DIRECT, SPECIAL, INCIDENTAL, INDIRECT OR CONSEQUENTIAL DAMAGES OF ANY KIND, OR ANY DAMAGES WHATSOEVER (INCLUDING WITHOUT LIMITATION, THOSE RESULTING FROM USE OF THE PRODUCT, INCLUDING : (1) RELIANCE ON THE MATERIALS PRESENTED, (2) COSTS OF REPLACEMENT GOODS, (3) LOSS OF USE, DATA OR PROFITS, (4) DELAYS OR BUSINESS INTERRUPTIONS, (5) AND ANY THEORY OF LIABILITY, ARISING OUT OF OR IN CONNECTION WITH THE USE OR PERFORMANCE OF INFORMATION) WHETHER OR NOT BLUEBOOK HAS BEEN ADVISED OF THE POSSIBILITY OF SUCH DAMAGES.

Know what you should pay for your home improvement projects with bluehammer.Claim your home. It's free!

Popular


Home Foundations And Why Material Matters

The typical single-family home can weigh anywhere from 80,000 to 160,000 pounds. Foundations provide a solid base for a home's weight, help to ensure the house stays level and provides a base for construction to take place. Foundations matter, and so does the material that they're made of. Here's a closer look at both, starting with materials and why they matter.

Essential Garage Equipment for Car Enthusiasts

What makes a car enthusiast? The vehicle you own says a lot about your passion for cars. About 12 percent of Americans are loyal to a particular vehicle brand, and vehicle brand loyal customers are four times more likely than other consumers to describe themselves as car enthusiasts, according to Scarborough. What you have in your garage also makes a statement about your love of cars. Here are some essential items every car enthusiast should have.

The Most Expensive and Most Affordable Maintenance Projects to Update Your Home

A functional and beautiful home is important for you and your family. When it comes to home improvements and maintenance projects, your budget is likely a major deciding factor when it comes to upgrades.

Building an Emergency Fund to Cover Unexpected Home Repairs

With homeownership comes new responsibilities, including repair and maintenance expenses. Sooner or later, you'll encounter a leaky faucet or a blown circuit breaker and quickly learn that keeping your household up and running is no longer as simple as a call to the landlord.

9 Ways to Eliminate Congestion In The Kitchen

Rubbing elbows with chefs isn't always a boon. Consider circulation pathways for a kitchen that lets everyone work in comfort

Best New Security Tips To Keep Your Home Safe While You're On Vacation

Nothing kills your vacation buzz like getting a call from the police back home letting you know your home has been burglarized. Basic home security tips are great, but safety measures are continually evolving, with new and more refined ways to keep you and your home safe.

10 DIY Peel-And-Stick Tiles To Quickly Take Your Backsplash From Meh To Magnificent

Adding a flashy backsplash is one of the best ways to help transform your kitchen, and, especially, to take the emphasis off of countertops that might need updating or cabinets in need of an overhaul. It could also inspire you to make those other needed changes. But the hassle of working with tile and stone and dealing with messy thinset and grout - or paying someone to do it for you - often wins out over going for it.

Bright Ideas: How to Light Up Your Rooms

These clever tricks banish dim interiors and dark corners, and usher natural light into the house.

It's A Great Time for Decluttering Your Home

It's always great to take some time from your busy schedule to declutter your home. While it may not always be enjoyable, here are some useful tips that can make decluttering easy and well worth it.

How To Create Year-Round Home Curb Appeal

Exceptional curb appeal will add to the enjoyment and value of your property and home. Maintaining your curb appeal throughout each season may pose its challenges, but with these tips, you can ensure that your home and landscaping will look their very best throughout the year.

See More Articles