An average water heater should last at least 10 years before needing serious repairs or replacement. This is good news since a brand new water heater can be a significant expense. The better news is that with a little bit of care and some DIY heater maintenance, you can extend the life of your water heater by years and save yourself significant money.

Basic Water Heater Maintenance

Just like your car or computer, a water heater needs a tune-up every now and then to make sure it’s running properly and to prevent any future catastrophes. As part of your annual spring cleaning, here are a few maintenance tips to make sure your water heater is clean, safe, and working at peak performance.

1. Test the TPR Valve

The TPR valve, or temperature-pressure-release valve, is your water heater’s safety mechanism. If the water pressure or temperature rises above safe levels, it will release water to prevent a dangerous malfunction. It’s very important that this piece of equipment is working perfectly. To check it, turn off the power and the water supply valve to the water heater. Put a basin or bucket underneath the pipe connected to it. Once everything is in place, slowly lift the tab on the valve to let a little water out. Once a little water comes out, let go. It should immediately stop the flow of water. If it doesn’t and water continues to flow, the TPR needs to be replaced with a new one.

2. Check the Anode Rod

Making sure that your anode rod is still good is the easiest and most effective regular water heater maintenance you can perform. The anode rod’s sole purpose is to make sure your water heater doesn’t rust. It’s screwed into the top of the heater and is often the first thing to go bad. Empty the tank a few gallons before unscrewing it. You’ll be able to tell right away if the anode rod is good or if it has rusted and needs to be replaced.

3. Clean Out the Tank

Along with regular maintenance checks, your water heater deserves a little cleaning itself. At least annually, you can drain all the water from your heater by first turning off the power and then attaching a hose to the tank’s drain cock. Once it’s empty, mix up the sediment remaining in the tank. The best way to do this is by opening the cold-water supply valve for just a few seconds and then draining that water. You’ll need to perform this several times until the water drains out clean. Then you simply close the drain cock and fill the tank back up.

How to Keep Your Water Heater Running Longer and More Efficiently

Aside from regular water heater maintenance, there are a few one-time things you can do to make your water heater work even more efficiently.

1. Insulate the Pipes

The purpose of the water heater is to heat the water, but if heat is escaping through pipes, you’re either getting lukewarm water, or you’re using more power than you need to heat the water. You can wrap the pipes around your water heater with pipe foam insulation. Measure your piping and go to any hardware or home improvement store to find the right sized foam. Slip it around the pipe, squeeze it closed, and tape it tightly. Even cold pipes can benefit from good insulation.

2. Insulate the Tank

While the pipes are releasing heat, the hot water stored in the tank is also letting heat escape. Just like your pipes, you can perform some hot water tank maintenance by insulating your entire tank and keeping your storage of hot water protected and ready to go. An insulating blanket looks like bubble wrap on aluminium and can be purchased online or at any home improvement store. Surround the tank but make sure that the pipes, TPR valve, and temperature controls are unencumbered and open. For oil or gas water heater maintenance, do not cover the top. For electric, you can place a circular insulation cutout on top and tape it to the blanket with foil tape.

3. Adjust the Temperature

The easiest thing that you can do to make your water heater the most efficient is to adjust the temperature. If your water is scalding hot, it’s probably turned up too high and is using too much energy. If you turn your shower on and wait forever for it to heat up, your temperature might be too low and you’re wasting water, which is wasting energy. Locate the temperature control and adjust accordingly. Remember that just a tap of the dial can make a big difference so be very careful when adjusting the heat. And make sure that your water heater is set at 120 degrees or lower for the safety of you and your family.

With these tools and maintenance tips, your water heater’s ten-year life expectancy could improve greatly while saving you money on your energy and water bills. Always take care while servicing your water heater and do not hesitate to contact a professional if you are concerned about the integrity of your water heater or its parts. And if you’d like coverage for your water heater, a home warranty can help.

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