When a water heater is working properly, you will have hot water any time you need it. Water heaters are reliable appliances, however, just like anything else, proper maintenance is required to extend the life and efficiency of your water heater. Unlike many appliances, there are only a couple of areas that need to be maintained at least once a year.
Turn off the power supply to the water heater before servicing it. Since most hot water heaters are hard-wired in the home, you will need to turn off the circuit breaker that powers the unit. If your water heater is gas, turn the gas switch to the pilot position. Another safety precaution is to wear gloves and safety goggles while working on the hot water heater.
Pressure Relief Valve
On the upper side of the water heater is a valve with a tube running below it. This is called a "pressure relief valve." If the water tank were to over-pressurize, this valve would cut on to relieve the pressure inside the tank. If this valve is not working properly when it is needed, the hot water heater could explode if it ever became over-pressurized.
To test the operation of the pressure valve shut the cold water supply off to the water heater. Place a bucket underneath the valve to catch any water that drip from it while testing. Pull the pressure valve switch about halfway and let it go allowing it to shut off again. You should here a gurgling sound or slight rush of air. If you did not, the pressure valve will need to be replaced.
Flush The Water Heater
The water heater tank should be flushed every six months. This will keep the sediment that occurs in water from prematurely corroding the tank. A buildup of sediment will also cut down the hot water heater's energy efficiency.
Connect a garden hose to the hot water heater's drain valve located at the bottom of the unit. Place the other end of the garden hose in a bathtub or route it outdoors. If you route the hose outdoors, make sure there are no pets or children playing near it. The water that will be flowing is scalding and can cause serious burns or worse. Open the pressure relief valve and open the water tank drain valve.
Allow the tank to drain completely and close the drain valve when finished. Disconnect the hose and shut the pressure relief valve. Turn on a hot water faucet in the house and turn the cold water supply back on to the water heater. By having a hot water faucet on, the air is allowed to escape from the water tank. Shut the hot water faucet off when water starts flowing.
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