If your water heater is working perfectly for decades, it’s just too easy to forget that it needs periodical maintenance. Following these simple maintenance tips, you’ll be able to prolong the life of your water heater tank as well as its efficiency. On top of that, this short maintenance routine can improve the safety of your family.

1

Tools and materials

The water heater maintenance requires only a handful of tools, however make sure you have them at hand before you start to avoid unnecessary mess. These include a bucket for draining, a roll of Teflon plumbers tape, a couple of rags and a pair of slip joint pliers. If you identify the malfunctioning relief valve, have the new one ready to avoid last-minute shopping trips.

Check the relief valve

Every water heater has a pressure-relief valve, which opens automatically in case the steam pressure inside the tank reaches a dangerous level. Unfortunately, there are cases when excessive pressure combined with malfunctioning relief valve may cause the tank to explode. The pressure-relief valve is usually located on the top or near the top side of the heater. The valve has a small safety lever. If it doesn’t release the water when you lift the lever, the valve needs to be replaced.

Replace the valve

Find a new valve for your water heater model at a hardware store or home centre. The replacement procedure is pretty simple – after you’ve turned the water off, drain the tank into a bucket. Next, unscrew the discharge pipe and unscrew the old valve. Use Teflon sealant tape to wrap the threads of the new valve and screw it into its place. It’s possible that your old valve has worked perfectly before you tested it, only to start leaking after the test. In that case, replace it as well.

Release the pressure

After you have put a new relief valve, close the shutoff valve of the cold water supply pipe that leads into the water heater. Use any faucet in the home to turn on the hot water so the pressure inside the tank can drop. These procedures are much easier to perform with the new generation of heaters, because a new electric hot water system comes with dual handed connections which allow for emergency changeovers. If you’re dealing with an electric heater, switch the power off at the main panel.  In case of a gas heater, set the gas control dial to “off” setting.

Clean the sedimentation

Now you need to drain the tank once again to flush out the mineral sediments that have built up near the bottom of the tank. These sediment layers shorten the life of the water heater, but also pile up on your energy bill by reducing its efficiency. Drain up to 10 litres of water to flush all the sediments. However, if you still see the particles in the bucket, let the water flow as long as it takes. Take care, though, as this water is piping hot.

4

Final touches

If you hear any gurgling noises coming from the tank, it’s probably just the air entering the heater as the water is leaking out. If the drain valve fails to close tightly when you’re finished, drain the tank completely and replace the valve with a new one. Restart the water heater by opening the shutoff valve and open any hot water faucet in the home to remove the air from the system. Finally, turn on the power if it’s an electric heater or relight the pilot light, in case of a gas water heater.

By sparing just a few minutes for water heater maintenance a year, you’ll be able to extend the life of your water system, as well as its efficiency and safety. Remember to set the thermostat to 50 °C, as higher temperatures encourage sediment build-up as well as the risk of scalding water injuries.