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Fall Water Heater Maintenance

Though Houston winters are generally mild, like the rest of the U.S., our hot water consumption spikes during the cooler months. This is why it’s important to perform fall water heater maintenance every couple of years. Sediment, dirt and various minerals can settle on the bottom of the tank, promoting rust and making your system work harder.

Annual maintenance on your water heater will help increase efficiency, lower your utility bills and ultimately extend the life of your unit. We have compiled a list of important procedures that anyone can perform, though a couple of them are time-intensive so make sure you have a free afternoon before tackling the job.

You will need:

  • A Water Hose
  • A Bucket
  • Gloves

Essential Maintenance Tips

  • Preparation – Before you begin maintenance (which will include draining the tank), turn off the power source for the unit (gas or electricity). There should be instructions on the tank for the proper procedure. Try to do it the night before so you aren’t wasting energy heating water you will never use. Do not attempt to turn off the power source unless you are completely sure you can do it safely.
  • Protection – Make sure that you put on gloves before attempting to work on your water heater. Even if you have turned off the power the night before, the water might still be hot.
  • Locate the Valves and Drain – The water shut-off valve is at the top of the tank, it looks similar to the circular valves in your yard used for watering. The pressure valve is also located at the top of the tank and should be labeled. It is connected to piping that leads the water to the outside. The water drain on the bottom of the tank. It is a spout that contains threads for a hose attachment.
  • Draining – Turn off the water in the tank and attach a hose to the drain feature. Place the other end of the hose outside where the water can drain safely. Now turn on the water drain to release the water and open the pressure release valve. Once the water has finished draining, turn off the water drain and remove the hose.
  • Flushing – After the water has been drained, turn off the water and remove the hose. Take the bucket and place it under the water drain. At this point the pressure valve is still open. Turn on the water to the unit and then turn on the drain, which should get rid of the last of the sediment. Once the water running into the bucket turns clear, you are ready to refill the tank.
  • Check the Anode Rod – You can also help extend the life of your water heater by replacing the anode rod every five years. It is the long, metal rod used to attract corrosive elements in the water, helping to keep rust from building up in the steel liner of the interior. It is best to perform this task while the water has been drained from the tank. Since this maintenance step is only necessary every five years, and is a bit more labor-intensive, you might skip this step and wait for a plumbing technician to check it out during their next service call. For the proactive, here is a handy link with the specifics.
  • Refilling the Tank – Turn off the water drain and close the pressure release valve. Now turn the water on at the top of the tank to refill. After the tank has been filled with water, then it is safe to turn it back on. DO NOT turn the tank back on unless it is full. If the heating element is on while the tank is empty, it might damage the unit.
  • Lower the Temperature – Generally a water heater is set at 140 degrees. Try lowering the temperature to 120 degrees to prevent the water from getting too hot – and to save up to 10 percent on energy costs.

Even with the best of care, a water heater will eventually need to be replaced. The typical life of a tank unit is 8 – 12 years, though sometimes more in certain situations. If you ever have any problems with your unit, give Universal a call today at (713) 364-0226. We can help you with the repair, installation and service of any tank or tankless water heater design.