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Every day, you turn on your hot water faucet and use it without thinking much about the system that’s keeping it just the right temperature. Most people only think about their hot water heater when it stops working properly. At that point, you’ll want to call a plumbing service and hope that a repair can be done quickly.
However, most plumbing service providers will tell you that prevention can reduce most of these types of emergency situations, ensuring you don’t have to worry about a cold shower right before work. More so, routine maintenance can keep your hot water heater working more efficiently. It can also help to extend the life expectancy of the water heater, saving you money in the long run.
To keep your system working at its best, consider these five simple but effective tips. It doesn’t take long to ensure your system is working as it should.
#1: Flush Your Water Heater Routinely
Over time, sediment builds up at the base of the hot water heater. This sediment isn’t avoidable in most systems. However, it is important to remove it. If it is not removed, it will cause corrosion within the tank. Over time, this also reduces how efficiently the hot water tank is running. This is a task you can have your plumbing service do, or you can perform it in some cases. The goal is to remove as much of the sediment as possible.
If you plan to perform just a mini-flush (you shouldn’t drain the tank yourself without a plumber’s advice), consider these steps:
- Shut off power going to the system.
- Place a bucket under the drain valve.
- Open the drain valve just slightly. This is very hot water – be careful!
- Remove about two gallons of hot water. Then, shut off the valve.
- Turn on the power as needed.
If you notice any debris in this water it’s a good sign that you’ve removed the sediment. If there is a significant amount, speak to your plumbing service about draining the drain to remove potentially more.
#2: Set the Water Temperature to the Right Level
The right water temperature on your water heater plays an important role in just how efficient the system is. Most are set by the manufacturer at 130 degrees Fahrenheit. Reducing that to 120 degrees will help to reduce overheating risks. It also puts less pressure on the heating system, minimizing maintenance needs for it.
#3: Have an Annual Inspection from a Plumbing Service
An annual inspection from your plumbing service is essential. Having a licensed technician inspect the hot water heater for the following minimizes risks:
- Burner assembly
- Corrosion and leaks
- Exhaust flue replacement
- Anode rod replacement
#4: Insulate the Water Heater Pipes
Wrapping the hot water heater in insulation can help to reduce your energy costs. It can also help to ensure the system is not working too hard to maintain the proper temperature of the water within it. There are two specific steps to consider here.
First, insulate the pipes themselves. This is something you may be able to do yourself by purchasing a foam pipe insulation kit (3/8-inch thick foam tends to be the best option). The foam is fitted over both the hot water and the cold-water pipes. You can do this for as much of the pipe length that is accessible. This will help to reduce the heat loss from the hot water heater to the faucet drawing it. It also helps to prevent condensation from developing on the cold-water pipe during warm temperatures.
Second, consider insulating the actual tank itself. This task is a bit more difficult due to the need to be careful of fuel sources and pilots. However, the task involves placing an insulating blanket or specifically designed insulative cover for the tank. It is fitted properly around each of the valves and pipes. Once in place, it helps to lock out heat loss. Positioned properly by your plumbing service, this can reduce energy needs and extend the life of the heating elements as a result.
#5: Check Key Valves and Rods
There are several key areas of the hot water heater that are most likely to need repairs and upgrades. You can work with your plumbing service to handle these replacements during an annual service call. However, you should still inspect and make sure to call the team earlier if you notice problems.
Start with the temperature and pressure relief valve (TPRV). This is a key valve that most water heaters have that aids in reducing pressure buildup. It also helps to reduce the risk of a hot water heater bursting. It’s rather easy to inspect:
- Turn off your cold-water supply valves (there are instructions on most tanks to do this)
- Turn off the power to the system.
- Position a bucket under the TPRV, which is located on the side of most tanks
- Lift the valve up to allow some of the water to drain. Then, let it go about a few seconds later.
- After letting go, if you notice any dripping or flowing water, the valve isn’t tight enough and needs to be replaced.
The second area to consider is the viable anode rod. It needs to be replaced every five to six years. If you change it out, it is possible to extend the life of the water heater significantly (if it is changed prior to complete failure). It works to draw in corrosive materials, removing the risk that these materials will enter the water supply. Over time, the rod will become corrosive, in some cases. If you leave it in place, it will stop working as it should. This is also a task that is best left to your plumber, though. Your plumbing service will help determine the right type of replacement (options include magnesium and aluminum/zinc rods, for example).
Is Your Water Heater in Need of Repair?
If you need plumbing service for your water heater, allow the team at bluefrog Plumbing + Drain to help you. Our team can help with repair, maintenance, and replacement services to ensure you don’t run out of hot water. Contact us today for a free estimate.