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Hot water heater maintenance

Waco Hot Water Heater Maintenance 101

Keeping up with routine maintenance can help ensure your water heater isn't costing you a fortune.

In homes all across the US, including Waco, hot water heaters account for 16.8% of home energy consumption. That’s almost ⅕ of your energy usage! Annual usage costs vary between $200 and $600 a year. If your water heater isn't working properly, those costs can skyrocket.

How do you take care of this overlooked home appliance? Continue reading to find out how.

What Happens if A Hot Water Heater Isn't Maintained?

Hot water heaters are in use around the clock. They run automatically without any day-to-day input from you, so it's easy to forget about. But maintaining your hot water heater is vital.

Let's say you've forgotten about your water heater. You haven't done anything to maintain it for years or even decades. What can go wrong?

Reduced Efficiency

One obvious issue is a loss in efficiency. It'll take longer for water to get hot. The amount of hot water will be limited. That means you can kiss those long hot showers goodbye.

If left long enough, reduced efficiency can even make a simple task like doing the dishes a headache. Cold water doesn't break down grease on dishes the same as hot water.

Money Loss

Old, worn-down heaters can increase your energy costs by a lot. Why? Any appliance that isn't taken care of will have to work harder to do the job it's meant to.

The exact amount of money wasted varies from one situation to the next. Over a few years, this could amount to hundreds or even thousands of dollars flushed down the toilet.

Reduced Water Volume

When let go, your Waco hot water heater might not hold as much water. This can reduce water flow in showers or sinks. It can also eventually cause the water heater to break.

Breakage

Without proper maintenance long term, a water heater will break. Sometimes a water heater will simply stop working. Certain repair issues can cause worse damage. If too much pressure builds up inside the water heater and the TPR valve is broken, the tank can explode.

Recurring Maintenance Tasks

Once a year you should be taking an hour or two to maintain your Waco hot water heater. For a small-time investment, you can extend the lifetime of your water heater to its fifteen-year expectancy. If you're lucky, maybe even beyond.

Flush the Tank

Flushing the tank once a year can help get rid of any debris that might cause clogs. It also helps prevent things like:

  • cold water bursts
  • rust buildup
  • corrosion of the tank's interior
  • general malfunctioning or breakage

How you flush the tank will depend on what kind of hot water heater you have. There are three different types - electric, gas, and tankless.

If you have a gas or electric-powered hot water heater, use the following steps to flush your tank.

  1. Disconnect the power source. In electric water heaters, this is done by switching off the circuit breaker. In gas-powered models, you'll need to disconnect the gas supply.
  2. Attach a garden house to the small drain valve on the bottom of your tank. Run the hose.
  3. Shut off the cold water supply.
  4. Open the drain valve and hot water faucets to help the water heater drain.
  5. Once the tank has drained entirely, shut off the hot water faucet.
  6. Turn the cold water supply back on and let the water flush out any debris or buildup from inside the tank.
  7. Keep an eye on the water that's draining out of the tank. When the water runs clear, you can shut the drain valve.
  8. Once the drain valve has been shut, disconnect the water hose and allow the tank to fill back up. You can switch the electric or gas back on at this point.

Some people have a tankless water heater. These models require homeowners to clean the relief valve instead of draining a tank. To clean the release valve, following the instructions below.

  1. Place a small container beneath the relief pipe to catch water.
  2. Close off the water supply valve.
  3. Open the hot water fixtures to allow the system to drain.
  4. Remove the drain plug, filter, and drain valve.
  5. Clean the parts you removed using a brush. It's easiest if you clean them under running water.
  6. Replace the drain plug, filter, and drain valve back to their proper positions. Ensure everything fits back together properly. It helps to take notes as you remove the pieces if you aren't familiar with your water heater's setup.
  7. Close the hot water fixtures and turn back on the water supply valve.

Visual Inspection

A visual inspection is one thing you might want to do two or even three times a year. It takes minutes and can alert you to any major issues before the tank itself stops working.

During your visual inspection, look for any leaks or cracks in the water tank or pipes. Check for pooling water beneath or near the hot water heater. There should be no water anywhere around the system.

See if there are visible signs of rust or corrosion. Older tanks may have a little on the outside due to natural wear and tear, but a lot of external rust might signal an issue.

Check the Anode Rod

The anode rod's purpose is to sacrifice itself by corroding before the water tank's exposed steel. This is done through a process called electrolysis. For this reason, these parts are sometimes called "sacrificial anode rods."

You can find your hot water heater's anode rod at the top of the tank. Since the water needs to be drained at least halfway to access this part, it's best to do it while flushing out your tank.

Start by unscrewing and removing the anode rod from the top of the tank. Inspect the rod for any issues that might warrant replacing.

You should replace your anode rod if it is less than 3/8 of an inch in diameter or has a lot of calcium built up. These parts will also need replacement if any of the support wires are visible.

An anode rod is a very cheap part to replace, so it doesn't hurt the pocket to do so once a year. When one of these rods go bad, it can cause the entire tank to break.

Test the TPR Valve

TPR stands for "Temperature-Pressure-Release." This is the valve that will stop your tank from blowing up if too much pressure builds up inside. It will also release if the temperature reaches high enough for combustion.

Checking the TPR is simple. It will be located on the upper side of your heater.

Place a bucket beneath the TPR valve. You can either set a bucket on the floor or hang one off the valve on the side of your tank. A bucket on the floor is easier, but place an old towel beneath it to catch inevitable splashes.

Lift the valve to let some water out and then quickly release. The water should stop immediately except for a few drips. If the water doesn't stop flowing, you need to replace the TPR valve.

Replacing a TPR valve is straightforward. Drain the water tank about halfway and unscrew the old part with a pipe wrench. Install the new one and test to ensure it's on right.

Once the valve has been replaced, it shouldn't leak at all. It's wise to re-test the valve in the same way described above after replacement.

Check Clearance

Water heaters are usually stored in either the basement or a boiler room. In some cases, you can find it in the attic or a closet somewhere in the house.

Wherever your tank is stored, you want to make sure it has enough clearance. This means it needs enough room around the tank so it can function properly. Being overcrowded risks the temperature rising too high or pipes being knocked around.

Most hot water heaters need a clearance of two feet around the tank and pipes. Check your instruction manual for your model's exact specifications. Follow them exactly for the greatest efficiency and safety.

If anything has been pushed into the clearance area for your tank, move it. If you aren't sure if something is too close, it's better to be safe than sorry.

Waco Hot Water Heater Tasks To Do Once

Besides annual maintenance tasks, there are a few things you'll need to do to your Waco hot water heater only once. You may have already done these. If you haven't, try to schedule a time soon to take care of them.

Insulate Heater and Pipes

Insulating your heater and pipes can reduce heat loss by up to 45 percent. This one simple step can also save as much as nine percent on energy costs related to hot water production.

There are special insulating blankets made for your water tank. You'll need to manually cut holes to fit around your pipes, TPR valve, and temperature control.

Once you've cut the holes, wrap the sides of your tank and seal the cuts with foil tape. Make sure to use enough tape that the insulating blanket stays secure and doesn't droop or sag.

If you have an electric heater, cut a circle of insulating blanket that is a little too big for the top of your tank. Some of the holes you need to cut will likely be in this top piece, but it depends on how your model is set up.

Once you have your oversized circle, drape it over the top of your tank. Tape the edges securely against the side of your hot water heater, allowing it to overlap so there are no gaps.

Important! Do not cover the top of hot water heaters powered by gas or oil!

Once you've insulated your heater, you can move on to insulating your pipes. Do this by purchasing self-sticking 3/8 inch thick foam pipe insulation. Make sure the insulation you buy matches your pipe's diameter.

Slide the insulation over the pipes as far as you can reach. Press down firmly to attach. Try to avoid gaps whenever possible. If the foam pipe insulation seems a little loose, you can use more foil tape as needed.

Adjust the Thermostat

Adjusting your water heater's thermostat has many benefits. If you aren't sure what yours is set at, check the temperature gauge. This might be located at the top or side of your tank.

The average water heater is set to 140 degrees. You should set your thermostat to 120 degrees Fahrenheit.

This will help prolong the life of your water heater by forcing it to work less. It will also reduce the risk of scalding in sensitive people.

Best of all, reducing your thermostat can save you a lot of money. For every ten degrees you lower the temperature, you save about five percent on your energy costs.

Waco Hot Water Heater Troubles? When To Call A Pro

If a problem arises during your routine maintenance, you'll want to call a professional plumber. But how do you know when you can fix a problem yourself versus when you need professional help?

If you don't feel comfortable or confident in doing routine maintenance, don't hesitate to call a plumber. There's no shame in needing professional help. A lot of people use professionals for their annual upkeep.

You should call a professional if you notice leaking from your tank, pipes, or any valves. This includes noticing water pooling around the tank or pipes.

If your tank ever stops working completely, call a plumber. Before you call, shut off the water supply to the tank. This is an important precaution to help prevent major disasters like water tank explosions.

Need More Help?

The information above covers all major aspects of routine hot water maintenance. Unfortunately, even with annual care, your water tank will eventually need replacement. Hopefully, this isn't for decades to come.

Proper upkeep is vital to prolonging the life of your water heater. If you're still uncertain about how to maintain your hot water heater, contact Mr. Rooter Plumbing of Waco today. Call (254) 340-1321 today to be connected with our trained professionals who will be happy to assist you!

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