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|Tips to save your home from a water heater disaster: flush the system, insulate the heater, check for rust, monitor for leaks, and secure it to wall studs.|
✓ Water heaters play an important role in our daily household activities. They help us heat water to shower, wash dishes, and do laundry.
✓ But did you know that they can also become a hazard if you don’t maintain them properly?
✓ According to The National Fire Protection Association, of all the house fires that occurred between 2012 and 2016, 10% of those happened because of defective water heaters. Neglecting water heaters can lead to explosions, personal injury, floods, and home fires.
✓ This blog post will share some tips on maintaining your water heater and avoiding disaster.
5 Maintenance Tasks to Keep Your Water Heater in Top Shape
Tip 1: Hire a Professional Plumber to Inspect and Clean Your Water Heater Annually
✓ This is one of the best ways to avoid a water heater tragedy.
✓ A plumber can detect and fix any issues before they become major problems that can compromise your safety or damage your home.
✓ Homeowners at times are confused about who to call to fix a water heater. This is always the job of a plumber!
Some of the tasks that a plumber can perform include:
- Cleaning the gas or oil-fired water heater burners to remove any dirt or soot that may affect their performance
- Checking the flues, vents, and gas connections to ensure they are secure and free of leaks or corrosion
- Replacing the anode rod, which is a metal rod that protects your tank from rusting
- Adjusting the temperature and pressure settings to optimize efficiency and safety
These maintenance jobs can extend your water heater’s lifespan and avoid costly repairs or replacements further down the line.
Tip 2: Flush Your Water Heater Regularly to Remove Sediment Buildup
✓ Sediment is a natural byproduct of heating water, especially if you live in a hard-water (water high in mineral content) area.
✓ Sediment can accumulate at the bottom of your water heater tank and cause problems such as corrosion, electrical failure, and reduced hot water production.
✓ If you ignore sediment buildup, your water heater may eventually leak or burst!
✓ To prevent this, you should flush your water heater at least once a year.
Flushing your water heater involves draining the tank completely and rinsing it with fresh water. You can do this yourself by following these 11 steps:
- First, turn off the power supply to your water heater (electricity or gas).
- To prepare your water heater tank for maintenance, you need to turn off the valve that brings cold water into the tank.
- Then, connect a garden hose to the valve located at the bottom of the tank which is called the drain valve.
- Place the other end of the hose in a bucket or a drain.
- Open a hot water faucet in your house to release pressure.
- Open the drain valve and let the water flow out of the tank until it is fully cleared.
- Shut down the drain valve and turn on the valve that brings cold water into the tank.
- Repeat steps 6 and 7 until the water from the hose is clear.
- Close the drain valve and disconnect the hose.
- Get your water heater running by switching on the power supply (electricity or gas).
- Check for leaks and enjoy your hot water.
✓ Depending on your water quality and the manufacturer’s recommendations, you may need to flush your water heater more often than once a year.
✓ You can also install a sediment filter or a water softener to reduce sediment buildup in the long run.
Tip 3: Check and Replace the Temperature-Pressure Relief Valve
✓ The temperature-pressure relief valve (TPR valve) is a safety device that prevents excessive pressure buildup inside your water heater tank.
✓ If the temperature or pressure inside the tank becomes too high, the TPR valve opens and releases some water to relieve the pressure. This prevents your water heater from exploding.
✓ But the TPR valve can also malfunction due to sediment buildup, improper installation, or corrosion. A faulty TPR valve can either leak constantly or fail to open when needed.
✓ Either way, this can put your water heater at risk of bursting.
To check if your TPR valve is working properly, you should test it at least twice a year at regular intervals. You can follow these steps to perform the test:
- Find the TPR valve on your water heater tank. It is usually on the top or side of the tank and has a lever or a knob attached to it.
- Place a bucket or a drain under the discharge pipe that comes out of the TPR valve.
- Carefully lift or turn the lever or knob on the TPR valve and let some water flow from the discharge pipe. Be careful not to burn yourself as the water may be very hot.
- Release the lever or knob and let the TPR valve close. The water flow should stop completely.
✓ If you open the TPR (temperature and pressure relief) valve and no water flows out of the discharge pipe, or if it continues to drip or leak even after closing the valve, it may be necessary to replace the TPR valve promptly.
You can replace the TPR valve yourself with the plumbing tools at your hand by following these steps:
- Switch off the power source to your water heater, whether it runs on electricity or gas.
- Close the valve that supplies cold water to your water heater.
- Drain a portion of the water by opening a hot water faucet in your home or by connecting a garden hose to the drain valve located at the bottom of the tank.
- Unscrew and remove the old TPR valve from your tank using a wrench. You may need to use some force as it may be tight or corroded.
- Wrap some plumber’s tape around the threads of the new TPR valve and screw it into place on your tank. Make sure it is aligned with the discharge pipe.
- Reconnect the discharge pipe to the new TPR valve using a wrench or pliers. Do not overtighten the valve, as this may damage the threads.
Adjust the Thermostat to Prevent Pressure Buildup
✓ This is another way to reduce pressure buildup in your water heater tank.
✓ If the temperature is set too high (between 140 to 145 degrees F), it can cause the tank to experience leaks and bursts due to increased pressure.
✓ By setting the thermostat to a lower temperature range of 120 to 135 degrees F, you can decrease the pressure and prevent these issues.
✓ You can experiment with different temperature settings to find the right balance between a comfortable water temperature and maintaining the tank’s integrity.
✓ As a bonus, it’ll also help you save money on your monthly energy costs.
Tip 4: Insulate Your Water Heater Properly to Save Energy and Prevent Overheating
✓ Insulating your water heater can help you save energy and money. Because doing so reduces heat loss from the tank. And your heater won’t have to work that hard to keep the water at the proper temperature.
✓ Insulation can also prevent overheating, damaging your water heater, or triggering the TPR valve.
✓ To insulate your water heater, you may purchase an insulation blanket or kit specifically designed to fit your heater’s model and size.
✓ Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on how to install the insulation properly. You can also insulate your hot water pipes to reduce heat loss along the way.
✓ However, be careful not to insulate the wrong parts of your water heater, as this can create safety hazards or interfere with its operation.
When insulating your water heater, it’s important to adhere to the following guidelines:
- Avoid covering the upper portion of the water heater with insulation, as it may obstruct airflow and potentially result in issues with vents or valves responsible for air intake.
- Do not insulate the TPR valve, the control panel, or the drain, as this may prevent you from accessing them or seeing any leaks.
- It’s not safe to put pipe wrap within six inches of the part of your gas heater that removes gas and exhausts it outside, called the draft hood. Doing so could start a fire.
- Make sure the pilot light access and air intake valves are open and free of obstructions.
Tip 5: Keep the Area Around Your Water Heater Clear of Flammable Materials and Debris
✓ Exposing your water heater to flammable materials or debris can pose a fire hazard. Leaking gas, sparks, and damaged electrical elements can all cause fires.
✓ That’s why you should keep the area around your water heater clear of any items that can catch fire or block ventilation.
Some items to avoid storing near your water heater include:
- Gasoline, propane, or other flammable liquids
- Paper, cardboard, or fabric
- Paints, solvents, or aerosols
- Wood, leaves, or grass
- Dust, cobwebs, or insects
✓ You should also periodically clean your water heater and the floor around it with the proper housekeeping cleaning equipment to remove any dust and debris that may accumulate over time.
✓ This will help you spot any leaks or damage that may need repair.
Protect the Flooring
✓ Even if you do everything right, your water heater may still leak or flood.
✓ To be proactive, consider protecting your flooring by applying water sealant and painting the flooring underneath the water heater.
✓ You can also use a drain or drip pan with a drain on the bottom, placed at the foot of the tank, to catch any leaks or floods.
✓ This will keep any water from spreading and causing damage to the surrounding area.
✓ Water heaters are vital appliances providing hot water for our daily needs. But they’re not as safe as you’ve probably always assumed!
✓ That’s why these measures should be included in your home inspection checklist to prevent a water disaster and ensure your water heater’s safe and efficient use.