How to Troubleshoot Sediment Problems in a Water Heater

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Sediment in a water heater is a big issue, because it can cost the owner lower elements on a continual basis. Discover the importance of hiring a professional to deal with a sediment problem in water heaters with help from a master plumber and heating specialist in this free video on water heaters.

Part of the Video Series: Hot Water Heaters
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Sediment in a water heater is a big issue, especially in an electric water heater, actually any water heater. An electric water heater is more of a problematic thing because it will cost you lower elements on a continuous basis. Usually when sediment gets to that point and it's costing you lower elements on a lower level, I'd recommend strongly that you get a certified person out to give you a price to replace your water heater because it's going to be a continual problem and it's just going to leave you hanging a lot. But if you so choose once again, you can choose that lower element, it'll be just in time anyway in between paying the bills and everything else that you'll have to do. The next I want to go across with the sediment, is how to see if you've got a sediment issue. And also a strong recommendation is that at least once a year, what I call a blow out, you blow the bottom of the tank out. With an electric water heater, to do this, the first thing you do is shut the power off. You shut the power off because you don't want any air pockets to get in where your elements are because they cannot, cannot at all be here, by air they will pop. It makes them bad very quickly, if they do even if they don't pop right away, and they're scary. So what I do is shut the power off, go ahead and hook my hose to the bottom. I do not shut the water off at the top to the water heater. This is just something we do on a blow up, I do it under pressure. Because what it does, all these tanks have a dip to bring them on the cold water side that comes down, to about this level in the tank. And it pushes that cold water to the bottom of the tank, therefore pushing hot water out of the top of the tank, and keep the tank in a stacking mode. Heat rises so it's kind of that phenomenon that happens there. So what you do is, you put it in there, it pushes the cold water to the bottom, which then pushes everything out the bottom, the bottom valve there. And it'll put, push a lot of sediment, it'll be a milky white substance. Sometimes it's like a bunch of little rocks that are just hard white rocks, Calcium, Magnesium build up. And you'll see this a lot, especially in hard water country, it's just something that happens. It also tends to eat, what they call Anode rod which is a rod in there, it's a sacrificial metal rod that's installed in every water heater. That's there to, so that the water will not attack the metal in the tank, it's the softer metal that it'll attack that. Now usually made out of Aluminum or Magnesium, depending on the kind of water that you have. So what it does is, is it blows the water out the bottom on a maintenance level and it gets rid of the sediment in the bottom. Some of the signs of sediment past that regular maintenance, is you'll hear your water heater when it fires up, it'll hiss and bubble and gurgle. You'll hear a bubbling, gurgling, hissing sound, especially from the lower side of the tank. A little bit of hiss in an electric water heater is relatively normal, especially when it first starts up. Because sometimes if it's a cold tank you're going to hear just a little bit more because of that energy transferred, that's going into the water. But if it bubbles and gurgles every time it comes on, you'll probably have sedimentary issue. This happens once again, in a hard water country, it can also happen as a build up if have let's say, a well. A lot of times, if you don't have a pre-filter on there, you can get stuff at the bottom, it's just basic dirt, rocks and things like that. What happens is, it builds little caves and tunnels in there in this calcified area. It looks kind of cool really, because it's the best thing I can describe it to you. And you get your heat in the water up and when it does, is it heats up and kind of blows out and not into the water itself, it blows through these little, small pockets and bubbles come up through that. And it just makes that bubbly gurgly sound that you hear. At that point in time typically, I'm telling people to think about changing their water heater out. In the hard water areas such as Arizona, it's usually a ten year, I'm telling people go ahead, let's think about replacing it because you're avoiding a problem of one, flooding. Or leaving you hanging on repairs constantly and continuously. And once again, it's one of those things that we all take for granted and you don't know until it's all gone. So that's the two things that I'm telling you on sediment. If you maintain that tank, you'll get a lot more life out of it, by blowing that out once a year at least. And if it's something that you're not comfortable with doing or you know, it's something you just don't want to touch. Just get your certified technician out and they will come and service that tank for you. And once again, I strongly recommend once a year and hard water sometimes twice in a year, is a good idea. So that's how you check and test things that can go wrong with sedimentation.

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