February 1st, 2016

How to Keep Your Water Heater Running and Safe

Home Owners Network

A water heater is an appliance that we seldom think about until there is no hot water, or until it leaks.  Then it becomes the center of attention.  Spending a little time each year inspecting and maintaining it will add years of useful and safe life to this important appliance.

Ufeb-se the following simple steps to inspect your water heater once each year.  Always read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions when performing any inspection and maintenance.

Inspect its general condition.  Call a qualified plumber if rust or corrosion appears severe, if water is leaking from the pipes or tank, or if electrical wires or gas connections appear loose or deteriorated.

Drain sediment from the tank.  Sediment can cause your water heater to use more energy and may hasten deterioration of the tank, causing a leak.  Before you begin, turn off power to electric water heaters at the circuit breaker or fuse in the electrical panel.  Set the gas valve on gas water heaters to pilot.  Turn off the water valve on the cold water pipe entering the appliance (usually the right side pipe).  Attach a hose to the drain connection at the bottom of the appliance and run the hose outside or to a floor drain inside.  Open the drain valve.  Drain a few gallons of water from the appliance until the water runs clear.  Close the drain valve and remove the hose.  Turn on the cold-water valve.  Turn on the power or turn the gas valve to the run setting.  Check the drain valve.  If it drips water after a few minutes, the valve may be defective.  Call a qualified plumber to evaluate the valve.

Check the water temperature.  Use a thermometer that registers temperatures between 100 and 150 degrees.  Run only hot water from a sink faucet near the water heater for a few minutes.  Check the water temperature.  If it is at or above 125 degrees, the temperature is too high and is unsafe.  Water above 125 degrees can cause scalding.  Turn the water temperature down at the water heater.  Most gas water heaters have a thermostat readily visible on the gas valve.  The thermostat for most electric water heaters is under the lower access cover.  WARNING: There are exposed electrical connections under the cover.  Do not open this cover unless you are familiar with electric water heaters.  Call a professional to assist you.

Replace the anode after about six years.  The anode is a piece of metal in the tank that disintegrates slowly from the galvanic reaction between water and metal.  The anode sacrifices itself so that the tank will not corrode as quickly.  Once the anode is gone, the tank will corrode and eventually leak.  Some anodes are relatively easy to replace.  Others may require a qualified plumber.  Read the instruction manual about anode replacement.

The Bottom Line

If you take care of your water heater, it will take care of you for many years.  Inspection and maintenance takes only a few minutes every year, can prevent water damage from a leaking appliance, and can prevent costly emergency replacement.

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