1. Flushing Your Water Heater
Many people treat their water heaters as if they never need to take another look at them after installation. Still others will check to make sure it's working but won't interact with them beyond this. Flushing your water heater is simple and can do accomplish two key goals.
First, it will improve your water heater's performance. This reduces the time it takes for water to get hot and decreases your water bill as a result. Secondly, it extends the lifespan of your water heater, helping to defer a major appliance cost.
How do you flush your water heater? It's pretty simple:
- Turn off the water heater's electrical power.
- If there's a floor drain designed for water drainage, you can skip this step. If not, you'll want to attach a hose to the tank faucet of your water heater. Then place the other end of the hose in a large bucket you can carry (five-gallon buckets are recommended).
- Open the faucet. This allows the water in the tank to drain into your bucket. Remember, the water will be hot, so be careful.
- Check the bucket. What's the water look like. Is there sediment or rust? You're looking for material. Ignore the color of the water. If the water has no sediment or rust flakes, then skip to step #5. If there's sediment in the bucket, then let the tank refill and drain it once more. If there's rust, you may need to replace the water heater.
- Once the water in the bucket is coming out with minimal sediment, you can restore power to the water heater. You'll want to allow some time for the water to heat up before hopping in the shower
Replacing the Anode Rod
You should also check your water heater's sacrificial anode rod. This is a steel core wire surrounded by other metals (aluminum, magnesium, or zinc). The rod is fastened at the top of your water heater and descends down into it. It protects the water heater from rusting by attracting corrosive materials in the water. The rod then corrodes so that your water heater lining won't.
If you have a newer, plastic-lined tank, you won't have an anode rod and you can skip to the next section.
You'll want to check the anode rod when your water heater is drained. An ideal time is step #4 above.
The anode rod will need replacement every five years. Doing this can as much as double the lifespan of your water heater.
If it needs replacement, you can do so by unscrewing the anode rod and pulling it straight up and out of the water heater. It's fastened by a hex head in most cases, and there may be a plastic cap or metal covering over it. It may be corroded on, so you may need an air compressor, a drive impact wrench, and some lubricant to unfasten it. Check your owner's manual for further details, or if you can't immediately find where the anode rod is located.
A new anode rod is inexpensive, usually running anywhere from $25 to $50. This is a basic how-to, and rods come with different qualities, so follow their directions for installation.
- Location, Location, Location
A water heater in a cold part of the home has to work that much harder to heat your water. The harder it works, the more expensive your energy bills get. You may wish to have the water heater moved. It's still important to keep it in the lowest level, of course – this reduces the risk of extensive water damage if it ever fails. Consult a plumber if you're considering this course of action. There are other ways to help reduce energy costs, whether you move the water heater or not:
- Lower the Temperature of Your Water Heater
You can still have access to hot water if the water heater's set to 120 degrees. Many set it higher than this, but it doesn't really have much effect. It will consume a lot more energy and decrease the lifespan of your water heater the higher you have it set, though.
5. Insulate Plumbing Pipes
Heat loss as water sits in your water heater and travels through your pipes can be quick. That means you just paid to have your water heated, and it loses part of that heat as it gets to you in the shower or sink. Insulated blankets are made for water heaters and they can reduce heat loss by as much as 40%.
Insulating water pipes reduces this heat loss even more. Be sure to only use insulated blankets that are designed specifically for this purpose. Using other kinds of insulation can be dangerous and pose a fire risk.
6. Water Heater Replacement
Finally, if you followed those steps in the first section and discovered rust, chances are you're going to have to replace your water heater. A water heater can last around 8-12 years, or occasionally longer if exceptionally well maintained. A water heater that's showing wear is really threatening failure, and that failure can be far more costly than simply replacing it.
If you have to replace your water heater, don't delay it. It's a stress to your time and money, yes, but failing to replace it creates a significant risk that would be far more time-consuming and costly.
If you need help completing any of the routine maintenance steps mentioned above, or you think its time for a water heater replacement, contact the most trusted plumbers in Iredell County.