Water Heater Service and Maintenance
Your water heater can be a major source of energy and water loss; and, if it leaks, the damage to your home can be extensive. My Georgia Plumber wants to help you maintain the safety and reliability of your water heater with all the helpful hints on this page. Of course, if you find the problem is beyond your skill and experience, just call- My Georgia Plumber for help with all of your water heater repair and maintenance problems!
We also want to help you save water and energy and – of course – money, so we have provided a lot of advice on water heater maintenance on this page. But remember Safety First! If you don’t think you can perform any of the tasks described below safely, please call My Georgia Plumber and let one of our licensed and experienced plumbers do it for you.
First, it is important that you check your water heater at least once every 6 months to keep it in good running order. If possible, perform this check at the beginning and end of the winter months as the colder water coming in to the home during the winter forces your water heater to work harder.
- Check your water heater’s age – For most brands, the first four digits of the serial number indicate the month and year of manufacture. You should consider replacing your water heater if it is more than 12 years old. After that, the possibility of the water heater developing a leak increases dramatically.
- Check the condition of the tank – You should consider replacing the water heater if there are signs of rust on the outside of the tank. This may be a sign that the tank is compromised. It could rupture soon causing water damage to your home.
- Check the setting on the thermostat – it should be set to 120°F to reduce the risk of scalding, lower your energy use, and minimize the potential for damage to the tank from overheating. If you have an older model water heater, set the thermostat at medium. On gas water heaters, the temperature can be adjusted at the dial on the front of the gas valve. On electric water heaters, the thermostat (there may be two) is concealed behind the two panels on the side of the tank. (WARNING: Turn Off The Electricity Before Removing The Panels. There Are Exposed Wires Behind The Panels Containing HIGH VOLTAGE. If You Do Not Feel Comfortable Doing This, Call My Georgia Plumber and have a licensed and experienced plumber do it for you.)
- Test the temperature and pressure relief valve (T&P) at the top of the heater for dripping water. If it is dripping, it may need to be replaced and the pressure of the water coming in to your home should be tested. Regardless of whether it is leaking or not, it should be replaced every 3 years according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Check that your water heater has an expansion tank and that it is not leaking or rusting around the seams. The expansion tank is a safety device into which water flows when the pressure in your water heater tank builds up too high. Without an expansion tank to absorb this extra pressure, your water heater could rupture and flood your home.
Some older water heaters do not have expansion tanks. Instead, they have a thermal expansion valve that pops open to allow a burst of hot water into the drain line if the pressure on the tank exceeds 75 – 80 psi. This valve is usually installed near the water heater but it can also be installed further along the water line upstream from the water heater or near a hose bib.
Occasionally, a third type of thermal expansion device is installed instead. This type is a fill valve with a thermal expansion device built in to it that is installed in a toilet. A lot of homeowners complain about these fill valves because they cause the toilet to make a strange noise or to run constantly. Unfortunately, when the homeowners remove these fill valves, many times they neglect to replace them with proper expansion tanks, leaving the water heater and the home with no protection in the event there is a pressure build-up.
Please, if you do not have an expansion tank or a thermal expansion tank, call us to have this important safety device installed soon.
- Drain a few gallons of water from the bottom of the tank to remove any sediment that has been building up, as sediment can cause corrosion and reduce heating efficiency. To do this, connect a hose to the drain or faucet near the bottom of the tank and then open the faucet. (WARNING: Water From the Drain will be VERY Hot. Drain It In To A Bathtub or Sink. Do Not Drain It Outside As The Hot Water Will Kill Any Grass And Plants That It Reaches. Do Not Let It Drain In To A Toilet As The Hot Water Can Crack a Toilet Bowl.
- Some of the newer models of gas water heaters must be cleaned every six months by running a vacuum sweeper around the air intake area to prevent dust from building up. If dust does build up, the pilot light may not stay lit and you may eventually need to have the entire burner assembly replaced. The label on your water heater should tell you whether it requires this type of cleaning or not.
To save energy and money, follow these simple tips:
- Set the thermostat on your water heater at 120°F for the best compromise between performance and conservation. For every 10 degrees the temperature is lowered, you will reduce energy usage by 3 – 5%.
- Install a fiberglass insulation jacket around your electric water heater and pipes to save energy. Most manufacturers do not recommend doing this on a gas water heater because of the potential fire hazard if the insulation gets near the gas burner or the vent piping.
- Listen for rumbling sounds from a water heater. This is usually due to the accumulation of sediment and lime deposits in your tank. If these deposits are not removed periodically, the sediment will create a barrier between the burner and the water, greatly reducing the water heater’s performance level and increasing the amount of fuel required to deliver hot water. The rumbling noise is water trapped in the sediment that is boiling. The sediment in your water heater also reduces efficiency by preventing heat from transferring to the water in the tank; instead, this heat is lost through the flue pipe. Eventually, the sediment can also cause the tank itself to corrode and leak.
- To prevent sediment build-up, you should flush the water heater regularly or get a licensed plumber to do it for you. However, if your heater is an older model and has a lot of buildup, it may be more cost effective to replace the water heater with a new, more efficient model that has a feature that prohibits the buildup of sediment in the tank.
- If you are going to be away from home for more than a few days, set your tanked water heater to the vacation setting. If yours is an older tanked water heater that does not have a vacation setting, then shut off the water heater altogether. If you do not feel comfortable re-lighting your gas water heater when you return home, call My Georgia Plumber for assistance.