Monthly Maintenance Reminder - Your Water Heater

Monthly Maintenance Reminder - Your Water Heater

Appraisal and Home Inspection
By Dikran Seferian November 04, 2021

If you enjoy a hot shower on a cold winter day, then you should probably thank your water heater. That bulky tank sitting somewhere in your crawling spaces is working tirelessly to provide you with hot water on demand; and because the heater is usually tucked away from living spaces, it can be easy to neglect. Although your water heating unit can do without constant attention, it may still need its due maintenance. To ensure daily access to your beloved hot water, consider giving your water heater the little care it needs every now and then. 

Why You Should Get Your Water Heater Checked

Unlike many other home appliances, water heaters are generally known to be durable home appliances. However, as sturdy as they are, they will eventually give in if neglected. It is up to the homeowner to reinforce their durability by providing them with the necessary maintenance procedures at least once a year.

The most important aspect of your water heater to account for is its safety. Water heaters are equipped with safety devices that you should inspect on a yearly basis. These consist of valves that discharge water to prevent excessive pressures and temperatures.

Besides safety purposes, water heater maintenance is important for your system to run efficiently. A major element that would cause a loss of efficiency is calcium buildup. These sediments accumulate at the base of your tank, impeding the production of hot water and cutting down the amount of water your system can heat. In the case of gas water heaters, a buildup of minerals may eventually damage the tank. As for electric varieties, a buildup of calcium may cause a failure in the heating component. You can get rid of these minerals by taking the opportunity to flush your tank as you’re inspecting it.

Water heaters don’t often show signs of decline until it’s too late. This is exactly why conducting scheduled inspections is important to catch issues before they develop. By having your water heating system checked at least once a year, you would actually be dodging a huge bullet of a repair bill — and of possibly having to replace your heater

When Would Your Water Heater Need Maintenance

Out of all the household appliances, the water heater is probably the one that receives the least attention. On average, you can expect your heater to run for eight to 12 years — that’s about a decade of non-stop operation. Among other factors, the amount of attention you give it can have an influence on its lifespan. Professionals recommend draining the tank once a year as part of the annual water heater maintenance. This would involve emptying the container through a hose and refilling it with fresh water. Other factors that determine the longevity of your appliance include the placement of the tank and the quality of the model. For instance, you may encounter problems with a poorly installed water heater despite providing it with annual maintenance. Taking these factors into consideration will reinforce the perpetuity of your heating device.

Maintain Your Hot Water Supply by Getting Your Heating Unit Serviced

Maintain Your Hot Water Supply by Getting Your Heating Unit Serviced

Water Heater Maintenance Procedures You Need To Know

Before getting started with the maintenance, it would be a good idea to determine what type of water heating appliance you have. Gas water heaters typically have a pilot light on the access panel. Moreover, gas varieties have connected pipes, whereas electric units feature a cord going towards the top or side of the tank. In general, electric water heaters tend to be cheaper than their gas counterparts mainly due to easier installation. However, depending on utility prices, gas units might be cheaper to operate. Nevertheless, both types require the roughly same amount of maintenance to prevent issues as much as possible. 

Turn off the Heating Source

Since you’ll be draining the tank, it would be a good idea to turn off your water heater the night before — why heat water that you’ll be flushing out anyway? If your unit is electric, shut off the circuit breaker. Otherwise, turn off the gas supply to the appliance.

Turn off the Water

Turn off the water supply to the tank and connect a hose to the drain. Make sure the hose is tightly fastened to avoid the potential flooding of the place. The water shut-off valve is usually found around the top of the unit and it resembles the circular ones you probably have in your backyard. As for the water drain, it’s the spout on the bottom of the tank.

Turn on the Drain and the Pressure Release Valve

Turn the drain on to flush out all the water from the tank. You’ll notice that the flow will slowly come to a stop. This is due to the formation of a vacuum that you can open by turning on the pressure release valve. This valve also goes on top of the water heater and is usually labeled. It may take up to 30 minutes for the water to drain completely.

The water might be rather dirty at first but that’s normal. Bear in mind that this whole procedure is to get rid of all the unwanted sediments in the tank. 

Turn the Water Back on

Once the tank is empty, turn the drain off and disconnect the hose. Place the bucket underneath the water drain and turn on the water supply while the pressure valve is still open. This would essentially get rid of any remaining sediments. Drain as many gallons as you need until the water is perfectly clear. 

Refill the Tank

Turn off the water drain and the pressure release valve; turn the water back on again to fill the unit. Make sure the tank is completely full before turning the circuit breaker or the gas back on.

Additional Steps to Consider

One of the best measures you can take for your water heater is to insulate it. Tanks are commonly insulated during installation. However, if yours isn’t, consider doing so — you’d be reducing energy costs by a decent margin. You can insulate the pipes by wrapping them with adhesive foam. Place the foam over the hot and cold water pipes, peel the tape off the insulating foam, and seal it tightly over the piping.

As for the tank, consider wrapping it with an insulating blanket. While cutting the blanket, make sure to account for the pipes, valves, and other protruding components.  Wrap the blanket around the tank and seal the cut areas with tape. Make sure not to cover the top of gas units.

Hiring a Professional

While checking the valve and flushing the tank are tasks you could do yourself, an expert may be better equipped to handle a thorough inspection of the water heater. To get your hot water system checked — and if necessary, repaired — consider calling in a plumber. 

Before hiring a professional plumber, there are a couple of important matters to take into account. First, you’ll need to make sure that the contractor is qualified and insured; a licensed plumber would guarantee a decent job. Moreover, consider checking for references and experience. While hiring plumbing contractors who know what they’re doing is undoubtedly important, you’d also want someone who has a good reputation among clients.

When to Call a Plumbing Contractor

When to Call a Plumbing Contractor

Service Costs to Account for

The costs you could expect often vary depending on the scope of work and the components involved. Moreover, be aware that many plumbers charge by the hour while others charge according to the job in question.

To inspect your water heater, a plumber would have to unassemble some components in order to be able to fish out any problems that warrant repairs. In this case, you can expect to pay by the hour, per which plumbers may charge $60 to $90 on average. Many plumbers may also charge a flat rate of $150.

Upon inspection, your plumber may come across an issue that may need attention. Keep in mind that labor accounts for the bulk of the cost. A thermostat, for instance, may cost $150 to $200 to repair, while the spare part itself costs about $20. 

Common Signs Your Water Heater Needs Servicing

Normally, you may not notice if your water heater is deteriorating until it's too late. However, there are a few signs that may indicate the need for a checkup. By addressing these signs early on, you may avoid costly damage in the long run. 

Heater Troubleshooting Signs to Watch Out For

Heater Troubleshooting Signs to Watch Out For

Temperature Fluctuations

Ever noticed when you're taking a shower and the water suddenly gets colder or warmer without even touching the knob? This can be due to a buildup of mineral deposits around the components in the tank. 

Decrease in Hot Water Pressure 

Another issue that may arise from sedimentary buildups is a reduction in hot water pressure. This problem may also be caused by a water heater that's getting old. 

Weird Smell from Water 

Usually, an odd smell coming from the water may be yet another indicator of mineral buildup. However, another reason might be a bacterial infection within the tank,  warranting immediate repair. 

Rusty Water 

If you notice the water that's coming from your hot and cold water pipes is rusty, the culprit is most likely the pipes themselves. Otherwise, if only the hot water is rusty, then you may suspect a damaged heater pole. 

Lukewarm Water 

If your heater is only producing lukewarm water, it can be due to several reasons. First, make sure you haven't made any changes to the settings. Another reason could be extremely cold weather, in which case it would take a lot more time for your unit to heat up the water. Otherwise, there might be a malfunction that calls for a plumber. 

How to Keep Up With Critical Home Maintenance

Maintenance Tips That Ensure A Comfortable Home

Maintenance Tips That Ensure A Comfortable Home

Your water heater isn’t the only appliance that requires maintenance. Carrying out general maintenance on a regular basis is important for homeowners. With everything running smoothly, you can maintain your home's good condition as well as boost its value. HVAC systems, caulking, and asbestos mitigation are all important aspects of an average home and require their fair share of maintenance. Our Monthly Maintenance Reminders will give you useful tips to keep your home in tip-top shape. Be sure to stay in tune.


Written by
Dikran Seferian

Written by Dikran Seferian