Of all the home plumbing fixtures homeowners regularly use, none fly under-the-radar more than water heaters. Water heaters can run efficiently for years or longer without any maintenance or upkeep - they’re easy to forget about in relation to all other home plumbing systems. However, neglecting your water heater for too long will end up costing you more than you might think.
We get it: we’re plumbing technicians, so we think about these things all the time, in ways that average homeowners do not. That being said, there are some very basic steps you can take to maintain your home’s water heater and extend it’s lifespan.
Minor upkeep several times a year can do wonders for your water heater’s performance and safety. In this article, we take on simple things you can do to get the most out of your Sacramento water heater for years to come.
Drain Your Heater Once Per Year
One of the best ways to curb sediment buildup and maximize heater efficiency is to drain your heater unit once each year. Over time, heated water increases sediment buildup within conventional water heater tanks; ignoring this problem leads to lower water efficiency and an increased energy bill.
To drain a traditional water heater tank, first find the water shutoff valve located on your unit. Close the valve and turn on a hot water fixture in your home to depressurize the tank. Then, shut off power to the unit by either a.) switching off the gas control dial for gas-powered tanks, or b.) shutting off the unit on the main electrical panel for electric tanks. Get a bucket and drain a few gallons from the tank to clear any sedimentary materials from your unit (you do not need to drain a significant amount of water to clear out sediment). Once the water drains clearly, without sediment, you can close the drain valve and switch the power back on.
Sediment buildup can greatly reduce the overall lifespan of a conventional water heater unit. Clear your unit of sediment several times annually to get back those extra years of heater performance.
Replace Your Anode Rod or Add a Second Rod
Another easy step you can take to extend the life of your home’s water heater is installing a second anode rod or replacing your unit’s existing rod. These rods, which cost between $15 and $50 and are typically made of aluminum, zinc or magnesium, bite the corrosive bullet for water heater units; that is, they naturally attract corrosive elements and rust, taking the damage in place of the water heater itself.
As these rods attract corrosion, they will eventually give way to the elements. When this happens, the leftover corrosive elements and any future elements can do significant damage to the insides of water heater tanks. Check your anode rod once every few months and replace it immediately when rust or other particles are found in your home’s water. You can typically access rods through the top of conventional water heater units.
Keep Water Pressure Below 90 PSI
While high water pressure is almost universally desired, pressures exceeding 90 PSI can actually damage the water heater, connections and other water fixtures throughout your home. To keep water pressure from exceeding 90 PSI and shortening your water heater’s lifespan, pressure regulators can be a very worthwhile investment.
These valves shut off water flow instantaneously once a certain pressure limit is reached. If your heater exerts water at pressures unsafe for appliances, or fluctuates significantly during use, a regulator can ensure that the pressure does not reach harmful levels.
Standard water heater units can last anywhere from 8 to 12 years, depending on average use. By following the maintenance tips and practices outlined in this article, there’s a good chance you can stretch that duration out much longer and save a good amount of money in the process.
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