This is How to Properly Maintain a Water Heater

Plumber inspecting a water heater - Mr. Plumber by Metzler & Hallam

Your water heater is such an important plumbing fixture. As with the rest of your plumbing system and other equipment in your home, it is critical that you maintain a water heater to keep it running and prolong its service life.

To maintain a water heater, you don’t have to be a plumber! There are many steps Indianapolis homeowners are able to perform to properly maintain a water heater. Our Indianapolis plumbers have outlined some key advice to make water heater maintenance as easy as can be!

Of course, if you are not comfortable performing the steps to maintain a water heater on your own, do not hesitate to give our skilled Indianapolis plumbers a call. Water heater maintenance is part of what we do and we are happy to assist you!

How to Maintain a Water Heater

To maintain a water heater, there are a few different processes involved. Our Indianapolis plumbers discuss the different steps that help you care for your equipment and properly maintain a water heater.

Maintain a Water Heater Pressure Valve

It doesn’t matter if your water heater runs on gas or electricity, all tank style water heaters are equipped with a pressure relief valve. This valve opens to release pressure if the tank is under too much pressure. If this valve is malfunctioning, an over-pressurized water heater poses an explosion risk.

To maintain a water heater pressure valve, suit up with protective gear just in case. Wear full coverage clothing, gloves, and goggles. Follow these steps to maintain a water heater pressure valve:

  1. For electric water heaters, shut off electricity. For gas water heaters, turn off the gas.
  2. Shut the cold-water inlet.
  3. Place a bucket below the pressure relief valve to catch water.
  4. Flip the pressure relief valve’s trip lever.

If the pressure relief valve is in good working condition, once the trip lever is flipped, you hear a small air rush from the valve, or you may see a minor amount of water or vapor exiting the valve. If none of these indicators occur, you need to have the pressure relief valve replaced. The tank needs to be drained in order to do so.

Maintain a Water Heater Tank

Tank water heaters need to be flushed annually. Over time, sediment from the water that moves in and out of the tank drops to the bottom. It builds up, which affects the water heater’s efficiency. Sediment in the water heater also has the potential to cause clogs in your water lines.

Maintain a water heater tank to improve the service life of your system with the following steps:

  1. Cut power to the unit, whether it be an electric or gas water heater.
  2. Turn off the cold-water inlet to the unit.
  3. Attach a garden hose to the water heater drain valve.
  4. Place the other end of the garden hose in an area such as a bathtub or outdoors that is able to handle the hot water released from the tank.
  5. Open the pressure relief valve.
  6. Open the drain valve.
  7. Let the water heater tank drain entirely to remove as much sediment buildup as possible.
  8. Close the drain valve.
  9. Disconnect the hose.
  10. Close the pressure relief valve.
  11. Open all your home’s hot-water spigots and faucets.
  12. Turn on the cold-water inlet to the water heater.
  13. Once you see water flowing from the hot-water spigots, close them.
  14. Once all spigots are closed, restore power to your water heater.

Maintain a Water Heater by Adjusting Temperature

Did you know your water heater’s thermostat is likely set higher than you need? Not only does this waste energy, it’s not good for the water heater. Higher hot water temperatures speed up corrosion and allow sediment and minerals from water to buildup more quickly within the tank. Water that is too hot also poses a scalding risk to your household.

Some water heaters are factory set to 140 degrees, but 120 degrees is more than enough for most Indianapolis households. Maintain a water heater by setting temperatures to no higher than 120 degrees.

Follow these steps to adjust water heater temperature:

  1. Take a hot water temperature reading at the tap farthest away from your home’s hot water heater. This is the starting temperature.
  2. Locate your hot water heater’s thermostat.
  3. Mark the starting temperature on the thermostat dial.
  4. Lower the thermostat settings.
  5. Wait a few hours for your water heater to make the adjustment.
  6. Remeasure water temperature at the farthest hot water tap.
  7. Repeat adjustments to achieve a lower temperature that is adequate for your household.
  8. Once you have found the appropriate temperature, mark it on the thermostat dial for future reference.

Anytime you are away from home for three or more days, maintain a water heater by turning its thermostat down to its lowest setting, or turn the water heater off. This conserves energy and gives your water heater a break while you are gone.

Maintain a Water Heater with Insulation

Tank water heaters constantly consume energy to keep stored water warm. Lots of heating energy is lost while in standby mode. Prevent this energy loss, get warmer water with less energy consumption, and maintain a water heater when you add insulation.

  • Insulate the water heater pipes that run from the walls to your unit with foam pipe insulation. Be sure to purchase the right size which matches your water pipe diameter. Place insulation around both hot and cold-water pipes as far as possible. Tape insulation closed. One-inch unfaced fiberglass pipe wrap should be used within six inches of the flue in gas water heating units.
  • Insulate the water heater tank with an insulation blanket. These are able to be cut to fit the exact size of your water heater. Wrap the blanket around the tank and leave space for the pipes, pressure relief valve, and temperature control to stick out. Use foil tape to seal the insulation blanket. Only wrap it around the sides, not the top if your home has a gas or oil water heater. Electric water heaters can be topped with a large insulation circle, with the edges taped to the tank’s sides.

Maintain a Water Heater: Tankless Water Heaters

The instructions on how to maintain a water heater above concern tank models, but tankless water heaters need maintenance, too! Maintain a water heater that is tankless when you perform the following steps.

Maintain a Water Heater when You Remove Scale

Tankless water heaters are prone to mineral scale buildup as water passes through the system. Scale buildup has the potential to greatly reduce the energy efficiency of your tankless water heater, negating the reason you likely installed it in the first place!

The amount of scale in a tankless water heater really varies from one home to the next, as water quality greatly differs. Remove the scale from your tankless model and maintain a water heater with the following steps:

  1. Turn off power to the tankless water heater.
  2. Remove the water heater’s lid.
  3. Shut off three of the water valves that supply water to the tankless unit.
  4. Slowly, remove purge port valve caps from each purge valve on the hot and cold-water valves. This relieves pressure built up in the valves for your safety.
  5. Affix hosing lines to all three opened valves, which were likely supplied when you had the tankless water heater installed.
  6. Open purge port valves with a perpendicular twist to the position of the unit’s hot and cold-water valves.
  7. Run 2.5 gallons of undiluted white vinegar through the tankless water heater.
  8. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to flush out and drain the tankless water heater.
  9. Twist the T-shaped handles on the purge port valves to shut them once flushing is completed.
  10. Remove the hosing lines from the water valves.
  11. Replace each purge valve’s purge port valve caps and tighten them.
  12. Locate and unscrew the tankless water heater’s filter.
  13. Remove the filter housing and screen by running these components under tap water and replace.
  14. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to safely restart your tankless water heater and replace the cover.
  15. Slowly, open the hot water tap in a nearby sink to move air through the water lines.

Maintain a Water Heater with Professional Help

To maintain a water heater, the steps may be more complicated than you bargained for. While water heater maintenance is a comfortable DIY task for some Indianapolis homeowners, for others it is not. In this case, call Mr. Plumber to maintain a water heater and protect your hot water system from damage caused by normal system use.

Ready to schedule water heater maintenance? Call Mr. Plumber of Indianapolis today to book maintenance for your tank or tankless water heater. Our Indianapolis plumbing professionals want to protect your water heater from damage, preserve energy efficiency, and keep your family safe whenever you use hot water throughout your home.

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