Checklist for Regular Water Heater Maintenance

Water heater with tool box

Water heaters often work really well for a decade or more without much maintenance, so it’s easy to forget about them in our day to day lives. But it’s winter, it’s cold, and the last thing anyone wants is to wake up in the morning and hop into a chilly-willy shower. Spending just a little time at least once a year to check and make sure everything is as it should be can prevent issues. We recommend keeping a clipboard nearby on the wall, to remind you to keep your water heater maintenance on schedule.

Here’s a basic checklist to ensure your hot water heater is operating optimally:

1. Check the pressure-relief valve, which is located on the top or side of your water heater. The valve will open automatically if the pressure in the tank is too high, so take note as excess pressure can cause an explosion of the tank. If upon lifting the valve, no water releases, you’ll need to replace the valve.

2. Maintain at least 2 feet of clearance around your water heater, unless your manual states otherwise. This gives a decent amount of room for the appliance to operate properly. If it’s available, we’d actually recommend keeping the area as free of clutter as possible so you can perform regular maintenance on your water heater without anything getting in the way and hinder your ability to safely move about and around it.

3. Adjust your water heater’s thermostat to 120 degrees. This will help you save in energy costs and safely reduce the risk of the water being too scalding hot.

4. Remove sediment and debris by draining your water heater tank (about a quarter of the way) a few times per year. To do this, you simply turn off the cold water supply, hook a garden hose up to the water heater drain valve, and allow the water to run into a bucket until the water comes out clear. This is especially important if you live in areas where hard water is present. If the water being drained is still cloudy, open the water supply valve (briefly)  to stir up remaining sediment, then drain the tank again. Doing this will also ensure the heating unit operates more efficiently, and quietly.

5. Every few years, schedule an examination of the sacrificial anode rod.  To do this, you will need to loosen the hex head screw and remove it. A replacement is needed if you notice the following:

  • An excess of 6 inches of the core steel wire is exposed
  • You notice the rod is less than 1/2 inch thick
  • The rod is covered with a coating of calcium

A replacement 13-inch zinc-aluminum anode rod can be purchased at your local home improvement or hardware store.

If you’re not comfortable performing these tasks yourself, you can also schedule regular water heater maintenance with your local plumber to make sure all is a-ok!

If you think you might have a water leak but can not find it, let North County Plumbing help. Call us today!

North County Plumbing has been in the service business since 1970 providing quality plumbing services including leak detection and drain service in northern San Diego County. Our qualified technicians are available 24 hours a day to help with emergency plumbing repair services… with no overtime charges! If you found this blog helpful, you may want to check out our post “El Nino and Your Plumbing: Info and Tips to Prepare.”

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