Water Heaters

Water Heater Maintenance

Troubleshooting and tips for maintaining performance

There are so many types of water heaters that it's important to follow manufacturer directions regarding any maintenance, but there are a few things to be aware of that should be inspected often.

Storage tank upkeep

Open the drain valve at least twice a year, letting water run into a pail until it is visibly clear. You should remove about five gallons. Doing so will prevent sediment buildup.

Replacing the anode rod

This is a crucial maintenance step that experts say is rarely taken. The sacrificial anode rod should be checked every year to make sure it hasn't been eaten away or completely covered with scale. A rod will last 5 to 10 years on its own, but cleaning will prolong the lifespan. If the rod isn't attracting corrosion-causing materials away from the tank, the tank will begin to corrode.

Problems

  • Running out of hot water - If you use all the hot water in storage water heaters, you'll probably be shocked with a spray of cold water in the shower. If you notice you're running out of hot water often, there could be several reasons. With electric heaters, if it is something that started happening recently and you haven't added any more water-using appliances or people to the home, it could be a burned-out heating element. With tankless water heaters, the most likely culprit for exceeding hot-water limits is using too many appliances at one time (for example, dishwasher and shower). You won't be able to use as much hot water at once as you could with a storage tank, so you might have to modify your own behavior.
  • Water leaks - This problem means you need professional service, and you may be told the only solution is replacing the tank. Leaks happen a lot less often with tankless heaters, but they are still possible.
  • Gas leaks - Call your utility company immediately and get out of the house. Homeowners should never play around with combustible fumes.

Laymen

If you find all this confusing or feel it's too time consuming for a non-expert (and many do), talk to a local repair company or dealer and schedule inspections and maintenance at times that are convenient for you. Water heater rentals or leases are another way to go about it and let someone else do all the work.

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