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Water Heater Maintenance

by Hickerson Brothers on August 26, 2016

Water Heater MaintenanceHere’s some interesting information:  Did you know that most of the money you spend on electricity each month goes to heating and cooling?  If you use an electric HVAC and furnace system and an electric water heater, you’re likely to see 50-60% of your monthly bill associated with heating water, freezing food, and maintaining a comfortable climate inside your home.  That’s a lot of money spent on just temperature control.  Fortunately, proper maintenance on each of these systems improves their energy efficiency and can help to keep costs down.  The simplest maintenance can be performed on your water heater, so let’s take a look at how you should be maintaining your hot water tank.

A note of caution: always wear protective clothing, goggles, and gloves when working with your water heater for protection.

Test the Pressure Valve

Your hot water tank has a pressure release valve attached to it.  This valve prevents the tank from over pressurizing and exploding, so it’s important to test it regularly.

  1. Turn off power or gas to the unit and close the cold water inlet to the tank.
  2. Place a bucket underneath the relief valve to catch excess water from the test.
  3. Pull the trip lever on the relief valve. You’ll vapor or hear a rush of air from the relief valve.  If you don’t, drain the tank and replace the relief valve.
  4. To replace the valve, remove the discharge pipe and unscrew the valve from your water heater. Once removed, buy a replacement valve with an identical stem length to your existing valve.

Tank Flush

Over time, minerals and sediment will build up inside your hot water tank.  It’s important to have your tank flushed two to three times a year to remove this sediment.  These minerals reduce the quality of your water but they also change how much heat is needed to keep the water at a healthy and useful temperature.  Failing to clear the sediment will reduce the heating efficiency of your water tank.

  1. Turn off power or gas to the unit and close the cold water inlet to the tank.
  2. Connect a garden hose to the drain valve near the base of the water heater. Scalding water will flow through the hose, so be mindful of where that water is draining.
  3. Open the pressure relief valve and the drain valve. Drain the tank completely to remove as much sediment as possible.
  4. Close the tank drain valve, remove the hose, and then close the relief valve.
  5. Open all hot water spigots in your house.
  6. Open the cold water inlet for your hot water heater.
  7. Close each open spigot as water begins to flow through it.
  8. Turn on electricity or gas to the hot water heater.

Never turn on power to the heating element of your hot water tank until you’ve verified that it is full.  By waiting for all spigots to run water you guarantee that your hot water tank is full.  A tank that is only partly full can burn out the upper heating, leaving you without hot water until it is replaced.

Additional Advice

  • Make sure your water heater’s thermostat is set to 120 degrees. The lower temperature will save you money and prevent burns ““ do not lower it any further than this
  • Insulate older water heaters with an insulation jacket, but stay clear of the flue
  • Maintain two feet of clearance around the water heater
  • After maintenance is performed on your tank, condensation may develop on the tank’s exterior leading to small drips and puddles ““ this is normal

Hickerson Electrical is your source for all home electrical services.  We’re ready and willing to deliver top-quality service to your home at a moment’s notice.  So call today at (703) 594-3913.

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