How Often Should You Service a Water Heater?

San Rafael

(415) 942-6565

Santa Rosa

(707) 452-3464

From the shower to the laundry machine, access to hot water is important. When maintained as they should be, the life of most water heaters can last 10 years or more with few repair issues. This means that to get the most out of your water heater system, it is crucial to either perform regular maintenance yourself or have your hot water heater serviced at least once a year by a professional.

Water heaters are especially prone to sediment buildup from hard water, which can cause a large amount of damage not only to the water heater tank but to the entire home. In the best cases, sediment can build up enough to prevent the water heater from holding the ideal amount of hot water for your home or turn the water a murky color. In the worst cases, if the sediment increases enough, it can clog the pressure relief valve and cause the water heater to explode. Aside from that, performing regular service will increase the water heater’s efficiency and lifespan in the long run by fine-tuning everything so that it always runs smoothly and catching any minor repair needs before they can grow into larger and more expensive problems.

In this article, we will discuss the best way to extend your water heater’s lifespan through maintenance. We will look at the warning signs that your water heater might be falling into disrepair, safety instructions regarding water heater maintenance, and maintenance tips you can perform to ensure the smooth functioning of your water heater, including exactly how often you should perform water heater maintenance.

Water Heater Repair Warning Signs

Whether you perform maintenance on your water heater regularly or not, there are common warning signs that something might be going wrong with your system. While regular water heater maintenance will most likely help you avoid most of these problems from escalating, something can always go wrong at any time, depending on numerous outside factors. These are some of the biggest red flags to look out for when it comes to a malfunctioning water heater:

Inconsistent Water temperature and pressure

Your water could be taking much longer than usual to heat up, you might be running out of hot water very quickly, or you could have no hot water at all. There may be lower water pressure as well whenever you try to turn up the heat for the water. This will also most likely come back to a problem with sediment buildup. Since water heaters warm the water from the bottom of the tank, the sediment left behind from hard water can obscure that source of heat. The sediment can also take up space in the tank, leaving less room for water and slowing water production within the system, leaving you with low water pressure.

Increased Energy Bills

If you notice that your energy bill has inexplicably jumped, it may mean that your hot water heater is having to exert more energy to operate as it should. This can be a sign of sediment as well, because an excess amount can cause the burner to have to work harder to heat past the obstructions. It is recommended to drain your water heater once a year to flush the sediment buildup.

Discolored or foul-smelling water

Sediment accumulation once again can be the culprit of this problem. If you have an excess amount of sediment, it can begin coming out of the faucets, either in murky or rocky water or in strange-smelling water. Water that has a particularly strong odor can also be a sign that there is bacteria in the water, possibly from a corroded anode rod.

Leaks From the Tank

A leaking hot water heater can cause an endless amount of damage to your home and system. Leaks can come from a variety of places, such as pipes or plumbing connections, valves, or the tank itself. These can range from minor issues that require a quick repair to more serious problems that will require an entire replacement. A leaking water heater should be attended to immediately in case it is a dangerous problem or before it can grow into a dangerous problem.

Water Heater Maintenance Safety Considerations

Before you begin any maintenance tasks with your water heater, it is important to maintain specific safety measures. Water heaters can deal with some very hazardous material, and knowing exactly what you are working with and how to work with it is vital to keeping yourself and your home safe.

Turn the Power Off

Before you begin, be sure that the power to your water heater is turned off. For electric water heaters, this means turning off the circuit breaker in the service panel. If you have a gas water heater, turn off the gas supply by turning the pilot knob to the “off” position. In the case of gas water heaters, it is also a good idea to have an automatic shut-off safety valve that can cut the gas in emergency situations.

Beware of Hot Water

A typical water heater contains water heated to over 120 degrees Fahrenheit. This temperature can cause scalding injuries, so it is important to avoid direct contact with the water while you are working, unless it has had time to significantly cool. Also, be sure to let the tank cool before you begin working.

Health Dangers

When sediment builds, it can host a large amount of bacteria that breeds within the tank, which can cause sickness if you come into close contact with it. A gas water heater has the danger of carbon monoxide that could possibly leak. Since this material is odorless and colorless, it can be a serious danger and can cause poisoning or death. It is a good idea to have carbon monoxide detectors installed in the house.

Water Heater Maintenance Steps

Specific maintenance tasks may vary from water heater to water heater, but most of them will include the following checklist items regarding regular water heater maintenance:

1) Pressure Relief Valve

The pressure valve is one of the most important aspects of any water heater, so it is crucial to test it to make sure the valve is working properly. To test the valve, place a bucket underneath the discharge pipe and slowly lift the lever to release water through the pipe. After letting it drain for a few seconds, let go of the lever and let it fall back in place. If there are leaks or the valve does not open when you try to drain, you will need to replace the valve. This test should be done once a year.

2) Flush the Water Heater Tank

Flushing out your water heater tank can remove buildup from mineral deposits and sediment. Flush the tank by attaching a garden hose to the drain valve at the bottom of the tank, and place the other end into a bucket or out into the lawn. Open the temperature pressure relief valve and let the water flow from the drain valve until you see it is clear, meaning the sediment has flushed out. Close the drain valve and relief valve, and remove the hose. You can flush out any tank or tankless water heater. You should flush out a hot water heater tank once or twice a year.

3) Anode Rod

You will most likely have to have a professional plumber replace an anode rod. This is a metal rod in gas and electric water heaters that helps prevent corrosion in the tank by attracting the mineral particles and preventing them from settling in the water. This means that it is very prone to corrosion, so it should be replaced every three to five years.

4) General Inspection

You can perform general inspections so that you can stay up-to-date on the state of your water heater. Inspect your unit for leaks, loose screws or pipes, and corrosion. This should be done at least every two months.

5) Thermostat

Make sure that your thermostat is set at a temperature between 120 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. It is better to set the water temperature on the lower side, since that will increase the efficiency of the unit, but setting it below 120 can cause bacteria to grow. Setting it any higher than 140 will risk scalding from the water. It is a good idea to lower the temperature when you are leaving the house for a period of time to save on energy.

Following these preventive maintenance steps can help most homeowners increase their water heater’s lifespan and allow it to run smoothly, whether it is a gas or electric water heater. Regular cleaning, inspection, and draining can extend and maintain the life of any tank or tankless water heater, so you don’t have to risk a cold shower due to a malfunctioning system. There are times when you will have to have a plumber take care of specific repairs, but tasks like flushing the tank can easily be done without professional help.

Call John Owens Services When You Need A Pro

John Owens Services plumbers are masters at their craft. We have proudly served Sonoma County and Marin County since 1986. Whether they are there to flush your water heater or diagnose issues, we will find the solution to leave your water heater in the best shape it can be. Call us today if you would like free estimates for replacement or are in need of a water heater service for your domestic water system.

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Good plumbing, heating, and air conditioning systems are vital in every North California home. John Owens Services, Inc. is proud to be the expert plumbing company you can count on

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Our philosophy is simple, we always want to maintain equipment to give it the longest life possible. Next, we want to focus on repairing when something goes wrong. Then only as the last choice, we replace equipment when needed. That’s the John Owens Way.

San Rafael
(415) 942-6565
Santa Rosa
(707) 452-3464



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San Rafael
(415) 942-6565
Santa Rosa
(707) 452-3464