Keep the Hot Water Flowing
It is easy to overlook the needs of your hot water heater because it is hidden in a closet or down in the basement, but when it isn’t working properly, it totally disrupts your life. To remain energy-efficient and have a long life, hot water heaters will need to be properly maintained. Newer water heaters operate a bit differently, but most residential homes and many apartments still have a traditional water heater. Well-maintained traditional water heaters have a lifespan of 10 to 15 years and can go considerably longer with proper care.
Visual Inspection of Your Water Heater
A regular inspection of a water heater is needed to spot any potential problems. This includes checking the outside of the tank for any flaking paint, staining or rusting. These are signs that the hot water heater is in need of a repair or replacement.
Water Heater Temperature Settings
The default temperature setting for most traditional hot water heaters is 130 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Setting the temperature to a minimum of 120 degrees will lower utility bills and prevent burns without undermining any of the uses of the hot water. Burns can occur in just a few seconds if water temperature is over 140 degrees. To lower the temperature of the hot water heater in your home, adjust the thermostat. This is usually located behind an access panel on the unit.
The Safety Valve on the Water Heater
Hot water heaters have a safety valve that is known as the pressure relief valve. This pressure relief valve is used to vent steam from the hot water heater when the pressure in the tank begins to approach dangerous levels. A water heater that fails to vent excess pressure can rupture or explode.
To inspect the pressure relief valve, first find the lever for the pressure relief valve on the water heater. Then, lift the lever slightly up and then let it fall back into position. And lastly, listen for a gurgling sound, which indicates that water that is moving toward the drain. If you don’t hear water then a professional plumber will need to determine if a new valve is necessary. Don’t risk having a safety valve that will not function correctly when it is needed.
Flush the Water Heater Tank
Sediment can build up in the hot water heater over time. This can cause the water heater to be inefficient and lead to corrosion inside the tank. Flushing the tank periodically will help to prevent these problems.
Water heaters can be washed out by following a couple of steps. If the power to your unit is electricity, then turn off the power at the circuit panel. On gas water heaters, set the gas valve to “Pilot” so the burners will not come on while you are flushing the tank. Next, connect a garden hose to the drain valve located at the bottom of the tank. Run the hose outside or to a nearby drain and then open the drain valve to let the water drain out of the tank. Be careful to keep children and pets away from the water because it can be scalding hot.
If the drain valve is clogged by sediment, try closing the pressure relief/temperature valve and turn the cold valve on. That might push the sediment out. If that doesn’t work, you may have to leave the water heater off and wait until everything cools down. Then remove the garden hose (and you may have to also take off the valve). A long screwdriver inserted carefully into the tank and moved around can break up the obstruction. (This can be a very messy process) Reattach the valve and the garden hose and try to flush it again.
When the water runs clear and then the flow stops, close the drain valve again and unhook the garden hose. Now be sure to close the pressure relief valve. Turn the cold input valve back on. Turn on a hot water faucet in your home and let it run until you do not get any more air bubbles. With the air out of the line, reestablish the power and turn the water heater back on. You may need to relight the pilot light on a gas heater.
Insulating the Tank of the Water Heater
Increasing the efficiency of your hot water heater will help to lower your utility costs. You can begin to do that by encasing the tank in an insulating blanket. You can also insulate the hot water pipes by wrapping them. Once it is protected, your hot water heater will not need to work as hard. This will extend the lifespan of the unit and keep heat loss to a minimum.
When Should You Call a Professional?
If you regularly flush your older water heater, the sediments do not build up and the valves operate easily. When more time has passed without upkeep, these tasks may become more challenging. If you have much difficulty, it may be time to call in a service professional in order to avoid long-term hot water disruptions.
With a home warranty systems protection contract, you can be sure you’ll have easy access to a well-qualified professional. Even if your water heater needs to be replaced, you will only need to pay the low fee you selected in your agreement with American Home Shield.