How Do I Care for My Water Heater?
A simple water heater maintenance routine can do more than help you avoid unexpected cold showers. It can also help you improve your household energy efficiency and extend the life of your water heater. Follow our water heater maintenance guide to get the most out of your equipment.
Checking the Pressure Release Valve
Your water heater's pressure release valve is a critical piece of safety equipment. When pressure builds up inside the tank, the pressure release valve opens to relieve that pressure and avoid an explosion.
To ensure proper water heater safety, this valve should be checked at least twice per year. It's a simple test:
- Shut off the power and water supply to the water heater
- Place a bucket underneath the pressure release valve
- Manually open the valve, allowing water to flow out
- Release the valve
If it snaps closed, it's working. If the valve stays open, it should be replaced.
Flushing the Tank
Sediment can build up inside the water heater tank. If this isn't flushed out periodically, it impairs efficiency and can eventually lead to bigger problems and repairs. Fortunately, flushing the tank is a fairly simple water heater maintenance task:
- Attach a hose to the drain valve at the bottom of the tank and place the other end of the hose outside or in a large tub or bucket.
- Open the drain valve and the pressure release valve to drain out all of the water. The water may appear dirty because of built-up sediment.
- When the tank is empty, turn the water supply back on for several seconds to flush the tank with clean water. You may need to do this a few times before water starts coming out clean, indicating the tank has been properly flushed.
- When you're done, close up the drain and pressure release valves and open up the water supply to refill the tank.
Your water heater likely has a component called an anode rod, which helps prevent rust from forming inside the tank. This rod is usually attached to a screw knob or hex nut on top of the tank; unscrew the end to pull out the rod and examine it.
Anode rods wear away over time, and if yours is less than half an inch thick, it's time to replace it.
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