Just as you maintain your car, your water heater needs maintenance to keep it working efficiently and help it last. For tank-style water heaters most manufacturers recommend that you (or a qualified professional if you are not the DIY type) perform periodic maintenance.
Typically, maintenance includes a visual inspection, testing the pressure relief valve, and draining or flushing the water heater. If you have a tankless water heater, maintenance generally includes flushing the water heater.
Water Heater Maintenance (Tank-style)
Draining and Flushing Your Water Heater
Water contains minerals that are safe to drink, like calcium and magnesium, but they can build up in your water heater and hinder its performance. Minerals and sediment build up at the bottom of the tank and can cover the thermostat sensor. This can cause a number of issues, such as the system working harder and longer and using more energy to heat your water.
Some manufacturers recommend completely draining and flushing your water heater every 6-12 months to remove sediment that may build up. Other manufacturers instead recommend draining off a few gallons every month to remove sediment. Check your water heater’s manual or ask your local repair professional for recommendations.
Once per year you should visually inspect the water heater and check the venting and air supply and piping. If you have a gas water heater the main and pilot burners should also be inspected. Look closely at the tank and the pipe connections to make sure you don’t see any rust, corrosion, or leaks.
Test the Temperature and Pressure Relief Valve
The temperature and pressure release valve is a safety device that is designed to fail before the tank fails. If the temperature or pressure gets too high in your water heater, this valve will release the hot water so your tank doesn’t overheat or explode.
This valve is located on the side of your tank and usually has a pipe leading down from it to just above the base of the tank. Place a bucket underneath the discharge pipe that drains from the valve, then lift the lever on top of the valve and drain off a few cups of water, then release the lever. If no water comes out, or the water doesn’t shut off completely or drips, then the valve needs to be replaced.
Inspect Anode Rod
Your tank water heater has a special device called an anode rod that helps prevent the tank from rust and corrosion. This device, sometimes called a “sacrificial” anode rod, is designed to corrode instead of the lining of the tank. The anode rod slowly degrades and will eventually need to be replaced. These rods are designed to last up to five years, but can degrade faster, especially if you have a water softener. Inspect the anode rod annually, and replace when needed.
Water Heater Maintenance (Tankless)
Although tankless water heaters don’t store hot water, mineral deposits can still build up in the heating chamber (heat exchanger). Over time, this can damage the heat exchanger, so it’s important to flush those mineral deposits periodically. How often you need to flush a tankless water heater will depend on the hardness of the water where you live.
Home Warranty Water Heater Coverage
Water heaters are just one of the systems and appliances covered by a First American home warranty. Be sure you have our home warranty coverage to protect your budget from costly repair and replacement expenses when covered systems and appliances unexpectedly fail.