Maintaining your water heater is invaluable

A few preventative measures and maintenance procedures can keep your water heater operating properly and help you save money.

Posted by Darrell Erickson on November 5, 2015

When it comes to heating the water in your home there are many options to choose from. There are many different kinds of water heaters available today, and they all do what we want them to do: heat water. The only thing is, it costs money to do so, and learning how to heat water efficiently with regular maintenance to our water heaters can help save on our electric bills.

Standard water heater tanks come in many different sizes and shapes, but they all have a few things in common. A temperature and pressure relief valve is something all water heaters use to protect against overheating and pressurization by discharging water. It is recommended that you lift the lever on the valve once a year  to allow a few gallons of water to flow through the discharge pipe making sure the valve operates as it should ( see fig. 1). Make sure the pipe is directed towards a floor drain.

Lift and release lever on T&P valve several times

Most tank water heaters also use an anode rod to combat corrosion inside the tank caused by dissimilar metals. It is important to replace this rod according to your manual to keep the tank from rusting, or the elements in an electric heater from corroding. Anode rods typically last anywhere from 3-5 years, depending on water hardness, use, temp, etc.  At WH we offer a Westinghouse water heater with a stainless steel tank that does not require an anode rod, just one less maintenance item to worry about!

Another thing you will find on tank water heaters is a drain valve. Over time sediment tends to build up on the bottom of the tank which can lead to longer burner cycles on gas water heaters, which means higher bills. To reduce sediment buildup you should flush your tank by attaching a hose to the drain valve near the bottom of the water heater (see fig. 2). Turn off the breaker if you have an electric water heater to protect the elements. Close the cold water inlet valve and open a hot water supply faucet.

Hook up a hose to your drain valve and lead it to your floor drain

Drain a few gallons from the water heater until the water runs clear, then close the drain valve and reopen the cold water valve. Continue to run some hot water through the faucets until all air is out of the system.

We can also help reduce our water heating bills by adding insulation to the tank or turning down the thermostats. Typically the thermostat should be set at no more than 120 degrees to prevent scalding and conserve energy.

Other ways of heating water are with tankless, hybrid or even solar water heaters. Tankless water heaters, whether gas or electric, heat water as it is used instead of storing a supply of hot water.  These tend to be more efficient than tank water heaters and are generally a lot smaller, allowing them to fit in compact areas. However, these too are susceptible to corrosion and scale buildup. In areas with very hard water, mineral deposits tend to form on the heat exchange elements, which cause the unit to work harder and run longer to heat the water.  In order for the unit to heat efficiently, these types of heaters should be flushed periodically to remove the scale buildup on the elements. Typically this is something that would be done by a contractor.

Remember, preventive water heater maintenance pays for itself. The last thing we want to do is wake up in the morning to a cold shower. Wright-Hennepin has an appliance repair program to help keep your water heater running. We also offer Off-Peak programs for your electric water heater that can save you money on your water heating bills. Contact WH at (763) 477-3000.

Darrell Erickson

Darrell Erickson

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