Unlike a furnace or air conditioner, your water heater runs daily regardless of the outside temperature, so in order to keep it running at peak efficiency, it needs to be maintained regularly. Most people don’t think about this maintenance until it’s too late and the water heater needs to be replaced.
Water heater maintenance is fairly simple if you know what you’re doing. For the majority of us, that simply isn’t the case. It’s best to call a professional; otherwise, you may end up calling for a repair instead.
Why should you have your water heater maintained?
First, all that water running through the heater contains dirt, sediment, and minerals. All of these things can settle at the bottom of your tank over time; of course, how long it takes to become a problem depends upon your water quality. It doesn’t take long for any buildup to decrease your water heater’s efficiency, though.
Energy efficiency is not the only worry when sediment builds up at the bottom of your water heater. Rust causes the interior of your water heater to become corroded from the inside out; you’ll never see it coming until it’s too late. Steel water heaters have a glass lining to prevent rust, but the constant heating and cooling causes tiny cracks in the glass that allow water to sneak out, and when water meets steel, rust is the result.
When performing your water heater maintenance, your licensed plumber will:
- Flush all of the water out of your tank in order to remove the sediment from the bottom.
- Look for leaks that can cause damage to the outside of the tank and the flooring beneath the tank.
- Ensure pipe connections are solid.
- Test operation of thermostatic valve
- Check the anode rod in the tank, which acts as a magnet for those molecules that can cause the steel outer shell of the tank to rust if they are allowed to come into contact with it. The anode rod should last five to 10 years with proper annual cleaning.
- Replace the temperature and pressure relief valve - it's the most important safety feture on your tank as it is designed to prevent the water heater from exploding.
- Inspect fume pipe for proper operation and condition.
Maintaining a water heater is easily forgotten until your first very cold shower; the best way to remember it is to schedule it annually at the same time that you schedule either your furnace or air conditioner maintenance. When a water heater is maintained and the sediment is removed regularly, it can extend your water heater’s expected lifetime by years.