A Non-technical guide to keeping your water heater at optimal performance
Knowing your water heater is about making sure your unit won’t fail prematurely or under perform, leading to less-than-hot water or high energy consumption.
Tank style water heaters have a life expectancy of 10-15 years. The most catastrophic way for a homeowner to discover that their unit is checking out is with a leak in the tank, caused by corrosion from sediment deposits inside --- and resulting in 1) an indoor flood, and 2) no access to hot water.
Familiarize yourself with your water heater & inspect it regularly
The inspection and preventive maintenance of the tank will help you get your money’s worth from your unit with the peace of mind that disaster is not imminent.
Signs of corrosion will usually become visible on the outside before the tank completely fails. A visual scan of the tank on a regular basis should keep you on top of it. If you’re seeing corrosion on the outside, its probably coming through from the inside.
How long you have is impossible to predict. You eventually have to change the unit anyways, so its better to do it on your terms --- rather than as a response to a giant mess. The plumbing experts at GPS can help you assess your needs and install the best heater for your home.
The good news is that you can make sure you get the most life out of your tank with two simple maintenance tasks intended to fight sediment buildup. All you need to know is how to turn a socket.
1-1/16” socket (or a socket set)
Change your anode rod every 5 years. The anode rod combats sediment by attracting the minerals in your water. It takes the brunt of the corrosion, but deteriorates in the process.
Before beginning this task, source a new rod, as you may find its not immediately available.
Observe the following safety precautions. Power down the water heater by closing the gas line shut off valve or flipping the breaker for electric units. Turn the water supply shutoff valve to off, and then open the Temperature and Pressure relief valve at the top. Finally, get somebody to hold the tank steady while you remove the anode rod, as tipping or turning the tank could cause water/gas line connections to break.
The anode rod is threaded into the top of the tank. Using a 1-1/16” socket, turn it counter-clockwise until it comes loose. Thread the new one in, turning it clockwise, and then snugging it up with the socket.
Make sure all your connections are secure before you close the T/P relief valve, turn the water back on, and power up your unit. Always turn the water back on before powering up, as the tank will eventually run out of water if you don’t, and the elements will burn up if there’s no water inside.
Flush your water heater every 6 months. The anode rod is an effective preventive measure, but it doesn’t collect all the sediment in your water. Your tank lining is still subject to corrosion, which can cause it to fail. Buildup also contributes to under performance.
Observe the following safety precautions. Power down the water heater or the elements will burn up inside the empty tank. Close the gas line shut off valve or flip the breaker (for electric units). Turn the water supply shutoff valve to off, and then open the Temperature and Pressure relief valve at the top.
Hook up a garden hose to the drain valve at the bottom of the tank. After you find a good spot for the other end to drain, you can open up the valve and let the contents out. Give the empty tank a few long bursts from the cold water supply to help flush out any residual sediment left behind.
Prepare your tank for service in the following order: close the drain valve, unhook the hose, close the T/P relief valve, and open the cold water supply to refill the tank. Do not power up the unit until the tank has refilled completely.
Further maximizing efficiency
1. The thermostat on your model may be set higher than it needs to be for your comfort. If the hot water coming out of your tap gets to a point where its hotter than necessary, you can turn down the max setting on the thermostat to reduce energy consumption.
2. The details about your model can be found on the side of the tank. If the R value of your tank is below a 7, you can increase the efficiency of your water heater by wrapping it with insulation.
3. Shut down your unit when you’re on vacation. The traditional tank style water heaters consume energy to maintain the temperature of water in the tank, even when the water is not being used. If you’re leaving your house unattended, power down your unit to avoid paying for pointless energy consumption. Just make sure you turn it back on first thing when you return.
Helping your water heater help you is a crucial practice for getting the most out of your plumbing system. Consult the pros at GPS for help in addressing your water heater to get the right unit for your needs. Mike is available at (425) 458-8548, or you cansend an email to email@example.com.