Every homeowner should create a home maintenance checklist filled with upkeep projects for you to tackle throughout the year. If you don’t already, make sure that water heater maintenance is on this list. You should flush your water heater tank and check the pressure-relief valve annually, and inspect the anode rod every 4-5 years. Skipping this essential maintenance can shorten the lifespan of your system, negatively impact your energy efficiency, and put your home at greater risk of a water heater tank burst.
Schedule professional water heater maintenance
The purpose of a water heater flush is to remove the built-up sediment and minerals from the inside of your water heater tank. This both reduces the pressure that corrosion puts on the tank and makes your water heater operate more efficiently. As with all the recommended maintenance items in this article, this is something you have the option of either taking on yourself or calling us at ABC Cooling, Heating & Plumbing to come help you with.
If you are flushing your water heater on your own, start by turning the system off. Then, turn off the cold water supply. In a bathtub in your home, run hot water—this ensures that the lines don’t suffer from a loss of pressure. Connect a hose to the drainage spigot at the bottom of the tank and route the hose either outside to your yard or to an indoor drain. You’ll then turn on the cold water supply and run it into the drain, bucket, or yard until the water is clean and clear of sediment.
A water heater flush is an essential home maintenance checklist item that you should complete at least once per year, but realistically will only take you about 20 minutes to complete. Again, if you run into any problems or have any questions during the water heater flush, be sure to call our team at ABC so we can send a plumber out to help you.
Check the anode rod
Generally, the anode rod in your water heater should be replaced every 4-5 years—about midway through the expected lifespan of most standard water heaters. This is because the anode rod is a sacrificial metal element—it draws corrosion away from the tank walls, eventually depleting the rod and reducing it to a fraction of its former size inside of the tank. Once the anode rod has been fully spent, corrosion will start to attack the interior walls of the tank, which can lead to leaks and a tank burst down the road.
Checking the anode rod is pretty straightforward. Turn off the water supply to the water heater and carefully drain the water heater (for obvious two-birds-one-stone reasons, this might be something you want to do during your annual water heater flush!). Then, remove the cap from the anode rod compartment at the top of the water heater. You’ll then be able to pull the rod out and visually inspect it. You should see some corrosion has eaten away at the rod. If the rod is nothing more than a spindly, rusted stick, it’s time to replace it with a new one. You can have one of the professional plumbers on our team assist you with finding the right anode rod for your model of water heater.
Timely anode rod replacement can greatly extend the lifespan of your water heater, putting off the day you eventually have to replace the entire tank.
Test the pressure relief valve
The pressure relief valve on your water heater is a critical safety component that prevents the buildup of excess heat or pressure inside of the tank. When the water temperature gets too hot (210 degrees or above) or the pressure gets too high (above 150 psi), the pressure relief valve opens and releases some water into the drainage basin around the water heater.
However, there are some situations where the valve can break—especially after “snapping back” into position after a release—or otherwise not be working as intended. This creates a dangerous situation where the tank is at an increased risk of bursting or exploding, releasing a torrent of water into your garage or home.
Our recommendation is that you carefully test the pressure relief valve on an annual basis. Position a large bucket underneath where the valve releases water and then flip the valve up. It should start to discharge hot water, which is a sign that it’s working as intended. Be careful: this water is hot enough to scald when released!
When it’s time, replace the unit
Ultimately, no amount of preventative maintenance and upkeep will keep an aging water heater around forever. Here are just some of the signs that you should call a local plumber and have your water heater replaced:
- Your water heater tank has been compromised and has started leaking.
- There are obvious signs of corrosion attacking the tank walls, such as rust in the hot water supply.
- Your water heater is no longer able to keep up with your home’s hot water needs.
By replacing your water heater when you notice one or all of these signs, you can avoid both interruptions to your hot water use and the potential for a tank burst.
Call the professionals at ABC Cooling, Heating & Plumbing
When in doubt, give our team a call for all your water heater and plumbing needs. Our plumbers can give you pointers on how to keep your water heater in great shape and advise you when it needs to be replaced. We provide great service throughout Hayward and the Bay Area.