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  • Writer's pictureLaura Redd

Taking care of your hot water heater- More Ugly Design

We all love a hot shower, or hot water for cooking or dishes and of course your hot water heater makes this possible. The hot water heater is another system that is often left alone until it begins to have issues.

The lifespan of a hot water heater is a decade or more, but once a year maintenance will help to extend that life. Here are 3 steps to extend the life of your hot water heater:

Step One

Test the pressure-relief valve located on the top or side of the water heater. This valve opens automatically if the pressure inside the tank gets too high. (Excess pressure can actually cause the tank to explode.)

Place a bucket below the discharge pipe on your hot water heater tank and gently lift the lever on the pressure-relief valve to test it. If the valve doesn’t release water when you lift the lever, replace the valve (sold at home centers and hardware stores). Replacing the value is simple; turn off the water, drain the tank, unscrew the discharge pipe and then unscrew the old valve. Be sure to wrap the threads of the new valve with sealant tape and screw it in. If the valve is several years old and has never been tested, it might leak after you test it. In that case, replace the valve.

Next, close the shutoff valve on the cold water supply pipe that feeds the water heater. Then turn on the hot water at any faucet to release the pressure inside the heater’s tank. Leave the faucet on until you finish your work. If you have an electric heater, turn off the power at the main panel. With a gas heater, turn the gas control dial to “off.”

Step 2

Drain sediment from the tank. Sediment buildup shortens the life of your water heater and adds to your energy bill by reducing its efficiency. Draining 2 or 3 gallons of water is usually enough to flush out sediments, but always let the water flow until you no longer see particles in the bucket. Open the drain valve slowly and let the water run until it’s clear and free of sediments.

Be careful! The water is hot!

Step 3

Once you’ve completed the first two steps, you need to listen to your water heater. If you hear gurgling and groans coming from your hot water heater, that’s normal. It’s just air entering the system as water drains out. If the drain valve does not close tightly when you’re done, drain the tank completely, unscrew the old valve and install a new one. To restart the water heater, open the shutoff valve and let the hot water run at any faucet to purge air from the system. Then turn on the power or relight the pilot.

Set your water heater’s dial to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. If the dial doesn’t have numbers, check the water temperature with a cooking thermometer. Higher temperatures increase sediment buildup and the risk of scalding injuries.

This may all seem complicated, but it’s really not. Any handyman can tackle this for you if you are not comfortable with this task.

Another way to tell if your hot water heater is going bad is if you smell rotten eggs when you turn on the water. There is a metal rod that runs through your tank to heat the water, if that rod starts to fail, it releases an odor. This is the time to call a plumber or handyman to replace the rod before it ruins the hot water heater.

All in all, this isn’t that much maintenance. A little knowledge and regularly checking the water heater with the above steps will save you money and keep your water heater running.



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