How to maintain your water heater

How to maintain your water heater

Replacing a water heater is one of the most dreaded home repair projects. The failure of your hot water heater usually causes a family lifestyle crisis and financial emergency. Not being able to take hot showers or wash dishes generally results in the need for a quick replacement. 

Usually the failure comes without warning and, if you’re unlucky, in the coldest months of the year. If you have just replaced an old failing water heater, you will want to know how to maintain your new one. 

If you service your new water heater appropriately, it can last for as many as 20 years. Yet most water heaters fail after 7 to 9 years. Surprisingly, most homeowners have never been told how to make their appliance last longer, and many water heaters fail within seven to nine years.

There are a few maintenance items that you can put on your calendar and accomplish yourself, or have them done by a home service technician.

First, you will want to annually power flush your hot water heater. Hook up a garden hose to your unit’s drain valve and power flush (full water pressure) into a sump or drain for three minutes. This will flush out the sediment in the bottom of the water heater and help reduce your energy costs while increasing your hot water output. 

If you have very hard water, you will want to flush every six months. This is important for both gas and electric heaters. In electric units, it will also keep your heating elements from burning out as often.

Additionally, your hot water heater has a rod that eliminates much of the rusting inside your water heater. If you replace it every three years, it will slow the rusting process even more. Rust damage to the tank is the most common reason water heaters need to be replaced. You can contact your plumber to order a new anode rod, which usually cost less than 75 dollars.

If your water heater is one to three years old, it’s time to start regular maintenance. In addition to saving money on energy, you will save money on the water heater itself, including labor costs for repeated installations. 

About this Angie’s List Expert: Joel Robertson is the vice president and lead plumbing technician of First Rate Home Services, Inc., providing water heater installation in Dayton, Ohio. Since 1999, First Rate has specialized in residential heating and air conditioning, plumbing and electrical service. 

As of August 16, 2013, this service provider was highly rated on Angie's List. Ratings are subject to change based on consumer feedback, so check Angie's List for the most up-to-date reviews. The views expressed by this author do not necessarily reflect those of Angie's List.

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