Preventive Maintenance on a Hot Water Heater

Updated May 7th, 2024

Preventive maintenance on a hot water heater includes flushing it annually to remove sediment and limescale that can accumulate over time. If not addressed, these deposits can lead to rust, leaks, and inefficient heating.

Tank water heaters generally last up to 12 years, while tankless models can serve up to 20 years with proper care. Neglecting maintenance can drastically reduce this lifespan.

For tank water heaters, preventive maintenance includes turning off the power, draining the tank, and flushing out sediment with hot water through an open drain valve. This process is typically handled by a licensed plumber who checks the anode rod and valves once the tank is refilled.

The flushing process involves specialized equipment for tankless water heaters to ensure that all the mineral deposits and sediment are completely removed from the heater’s internal components. This equipment typically includes a submersible pump, hoses, and a large bucket to circulate a descaling solution through the water heater. The descaling solution, often a food-grade vinegar or a commercially available chemical descaler, is used to break down the limescale and sediment that has accumulated. The pump helps circulate this solution through the system, effectively cleaning the internal pathways and heat exchanger, which are crucial for the efficient operation of the heater.

Checklist for Preventive Maintenance on a Water Heater

  • Annual Flushing: Clear out sediment and scale to prevent rust and maintain efficiency.
  • Anode Rod Inspection and Replacement: Check the anode rod yearly and replace if worn out to protect the tank from corrosion.
  • Leak and Rust Inspection: Regular checks can catch issues before they lead to significant damage.
  • Thermostat and Pressure Relief Valve Testing: Verify correct operation to ensure safety and energy efficiency.
  • Heating Element Inspection: Look for calcification on elements, particularly in electric heaters.
  • Temperature Adjustment: Optimize settings to save energy while meeting household needs.
  • Burner Inspection and Cleaning (Gas Water Heaters): Ensure efficient operation and proper flame.
  • Ventilation Check (Gas Water Heaters): Confirm that exhaust systems are clear and functioning.
  • Electrical Connection Inspection (Electric Water Heaters): Secure and corrosion-free connections are crucial.
  • Professional Annual Inspection: A licensed plumber should verify that all components are functioning correctly.
  • Sediment Trap Check: Ensure that the sediment trap on gas heaters is clear to protect the burner.
  • Water Quality Test: Assess water for hardness and adjust treatment systems as necessary to reduce scaling.
  • Safety Device Check: Ensure all safety devices, including the thermocouple on gas heaters, are operational.

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