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Benefits of Water Heater Maintenance

Most home service companies trumpet the benefits of annual HVAC maintenance, but it’s also important to keep your water heater running at peak performance too.

Like many of the amenities in our daily routine, it’s easy to overlook the important role that hot water plays in our lives. Morning showers, laundry, and dishwashing are all essential tasks that require hot water. Like a forced air system, annual maintenance on your water heater will ensure a long life and lower utility bills.

Before you start with a maintenance plan, it’s important to have a basic understanding of your unit. A little investigating will help you better prepare for a tune-up and help with any future conversations with a professional technician. Here are a few basics you should know before you schedule maintenance:

  • What type of water heater do you have? This seems like an easy question, but there are several kinds of commercial units and each one functions differently. Is your water heater natural gas, electric or propane? Is it a basic tank or a tankless design? Knowing the differences will help greatly with any maintenance tasks.
  • What is the serial number? This is essential information as it has the age and the gallon capacity encoded in it. You will need this number for warranty reference and maintenance guidance.
  • How do you turn off the water? Most shut-off valves are located above the unit on the cold piping side. There is also a water shut-off valve that goes directly into your home. Make sure that any tools you will need to shut off either valve are placed in close proximity to the unit (in case of an emergency).
  • How do you shut off the fuel or power supply? Close to your heater, within a few feet, there should be a gas valve or a power/disconnect switch. You should also find out where the main gas shut-off valve is located in the event of a leak. Ask your plumber or repair company to advise you if you need help.
  • Is the water heater area clear? In addition to a cluttered area around the heater being a fire hazard, there is also the danger of water damage in the event of a leak. If the unit is in a cluttered space, it might not be receiving enough oxygen which can affect the efficiency and cause internal damage to the unit.

After you have become more familiar with your water heater, it’s time to review a maintenance checklist. These are some of the components that a professional will check during basic water heater maintenance:

  • Thermostat Check – If you own an electric water heater, the technician will test the voltage on the thermostat and probably recommend the setting be adjusted to 120 degrees (if it isn’t already) to save energy.
  • Vent Inspection – A gas water heater will need to have the vent system thoroughly checked. The condition of the vents on this unit are important as they help prevent backdraft of poisonous exhaust.
  • Anode Rod Check – This component is used to attract rust and keep it from forming inside the tank. If it has corroded it will need to be replaced.

What is a water heater anode rod?

  • T&P Valve Check – The temperature and pressure relief (T&P) valve opens when the pressure or temperature in the tank reaches an unsafe level. The technician will make sure that the valve is fully operational, otherwise it will need to be repaired.
  • Tank Inspection – The outside of the tank will be inspected to ensure that the water line connections are secure and that there are no signs of rust.
  • Flushing the Tank – The tank should be flushed and drained regularly to remove sediment that can lead to inefficient performance and ultimately damage the unit.

Having a basic understanding of your water heater is important for your safety and for the longevity of the unit. It is also essential that annual maintenance is performed by a professional technician to keep it running efficiently and minimize repair issues. If you are having problems with your unit, or suspect it might need a tune-up, give us a call today at (713) 364-0226!

Here are some more DIY tips for keeping your water heater running more efficiently.