The importance of water heater maintenance
Your water heater is an appliance you use on a daily basis. Whenever you take a bath or wash dishes, it comes into play and as a result having issues with it can inconvenience and disrupt your everyday life. Issues can be prevented with the right maintenance which in turn will also ensure that you can access hot water whenever you need it. Below are some of the major importance of water heater maintenance:
Although water heaters are meant to last for many years, without regular maintenance, that might not happen. They tend to deteriorate much faster if they are not regularly maintained. An instance is the build-up of harmful materials when you don’t flush your water heater on an annual basis. The water heater works much harder as a result and ultimately, this will cause it to quickly wear down.
To prevent water heater issues from ever happening in the first place, regular maintenance is needed. It also helps to detect potential issues in its early stages when they will be much easier to resolve.
Regular maintenance helps to increase the working efficiency of your water heater. Increased efficiency in turn reduces the total amount of energy usage required to get hot water in your home. When your water heater is working very well, the total amount of work that the water heater has to do is reduced and consequently this will decrease the total amount of wear on your water heater. In other words, increased efficiency in turn extends the lifetime of your water heater.
With a reduction in the amount of energy required by your water heater, you also decrease the amount of money invested in heating water and reduce your energy utility bill. Also, since regular maintenance of your water heater helps to prevent the water heater from breaking down, this will likely prevent you from spending money on expensive repairs. The risk of water damage from a leaking water heater tank is also lowered and since water damage repair can be extremely expensive, you will be saved from spending that much money.
Know when it’s time to call for professional repair
Being able to recognize the signs that you need to call a professional in water heater repair early is very necessary and important because you greatly rely on your water heater. It is better to notice a problem quickly in order to drastically reduce the chances of a complete water heater breakdown. Here are some of the signs:
1. Reduced Water Flow
If the flow of water is slower than usual, it may be as a result of build-up of scale or sediment in the water heater or connecting plumbing. In hard water areas, scale is particularly a problem and if left can build up and cause more problems. You can solve this problem by flushing the water heater and/or descaling.
2. Water is Discolored or Smells
When your water is discolored (rusty and muddy colors included), it suggests that there is presence of bacteria or rust in your water heater tank. Another cause can be the fact that the tank’s anode rod, which usually aids the killing of bacteria and removes any rust from the water, is broken. Smelly water is also a sign that your water heater has a problem. Rotten egg smell is the most common smell from a faulty water heater and it is caused by the development of sulfate bacteria within the water heater tank thereby creating sulfate gas and that rotten smell.
The issue of smelly and discolored hot water can be solved by flushing the water heater.
3. Strange Noises Coming From the Water Heater
Sometimes some kind of concerning noises can be heard coming from your water heater (bangs, loud gurgles, cracks, whining sounds, pops). These noises are usually associated with a build-up of scale which burns off inside the heater. A descaling is needed to resolve this problem.
4. Leaking Water Heater
If water is dripping from your water heater or there’s a pool of water beneath your water heater, it indicates leakage which is a serious problem that should be addressed by a repair technician. Although leaks can often be repaired, sometimes repairs don’t cut it and you may need to replace your water heater.
5. Fluctuating Hot Water
Fluctuating water temperatures are issues that can be a little more subtle and not as easily discovered as no hot water issues. If you notice that the water temperature is fluctuating and you think there’s something wrong then it’s possible that there is a build-up of mineral deposits (scale) or a faulty water heater element that needs to be repaired.
If you notice any of the above mentioned warning signs then you should know it’s time to call a professional for repair.
Common Water Heater Issues and Major Troubleshooting Steps
Water is too hot or too cold or possibly not hot at all
Sometimes water heaters can produce water that is too hot or too cold or possibly not hot at all. Issues like this can be as a result of a faulty temperature sensor. In this case, you can use a multimeter to know if the temperature sensor is faulty or needs to be repositioned.
Leaks in water heater
Loose connections are usually the cause of water heater leakage. In this case, tightening the loose connections with a wrench can resolve it. Leaks can also come from valves, and replacing these is easy. However, If the leak is coming from the tank, it is more serious as this could mean that the tank may be corroded. In this case repair doesn’t cut it, entire replacement is needed.
Rusty or brown-colored water
Discolored water is probably as a result of corrosion inside your tank. The only way to solve this is by replacing the tank.
However, the discolored water could also be caused by a failing anode rod so before opting for tank replacement, try flushing the tank and changing the anode rod to see if it resolves the problem. If it doesn’t then you can go ahead and replace it.
Water has a smelly odor
Smelly odor from your water can be as a result of bacteria in your heater. For this, flushing your tank can solve it, or you can try to kill off all the bacterias by boiling the water to maximum temperature. Another option is cleaning it out with chlorine bleach.
If the smell coming from the water is of rotten eggs, it could be caused by a failing anode rod and in this case, replacing the anode rod is the solution.
A build-up of scale in the water heater tank and on the heating elements can create noises that are concerning as the water heats like popping, rumbling, and banging sounds. In such cases, draining the tank and descaling can solve the problem and stop the noise. However, if the problem becomes too severe, complete replacement of the tank is needed.
Tank Takes Ages to Reheat
If it takes ages for the tank to heat water, the possible reasons are a faulty thermostat, faulty heating elements, and sediment build-up on the elements. Check each of these to know which might be the problem, then repair or replace as necessary.
If you have a gas water heater, the problem could lie with the burner.
Low Hot Water Pressure
This is often caused by not having pipes that are wide enough. If the pipes in your home are ½” wide and you are suffering from low water pressure, you should consider changing the pipes and fitting ¾” pipes instead. That would likely resolve the problem.
What kind of maintenance does a water heater need?
Regular water heater maintenance usually consists of flushing the water heater unit, inspecting and replacing the anode rod if faulty, checking the water heater for rust or leaks, and testing the valves and thermostat.
Flushing the water heater annually helps in removing the built-up limescale and sediments. To flush out the sediments from the tank of a tank water heater, a licensed plumber will first of all turn off power to the water heater unit, then drain the tank, and run hot water through the water heater unit while the drain valve is open. After the sediment has been flushed out from the water heater, they will refill the tank and inspect the anode rod along with all the valves. Although the process may sound simple, it is advisable to best leave the job to a licensed plumber.
Preparing for an emergency water heater repair situation
To make sure you and your entire household are safe if you are faced with a water heater repair emergency, there are certain things you need to do.
Follow these eight steps to prepare yourself for a plumbing emergency.
1. Turn off Water Supply at the Shutoff Valve
In any plumbing emergency, this is the first thing you need to do. Shutting off your water supply at the shutoff valve will help to prevent any water damage.
2. Turn Off Your Hot Water System
In case of a serious plumbing emergency, in addition to shutting off your water supply, you should also turn off your hot water system. Your water heater unit will be at risk of overheating or bursting if you leave it on.
3. Call a Plumber
After shutting off your water supply and if needed your hot water system, calling a plumber is your next step. Don’t hesitate or wait! The sooner you contact an emergency plumber, the sooner your plumbing problem can be fixed.
4. Address Small, Identifiable Leaks
If the plumbing problem is associated with a smaller leak, you can shut off the water supply to that particular pipe. While waiting for the plumber to arrive, you can use towels or pipe tape to patch and block the leak as best you can.
5. Soak up Leaks or Minor Floods
As you wait for your plumber, soak up excess water from leaks by making use of towels, rags, and heavy-duty paper towels. This will prevent water damages like mold growth, destroyed carpet, and drywall damage.
6. Avoid Harmful Chemicals
Buying drain cleaners from stores to clean your drains may be a quick fix, but it only provides a temporary solution and it can actually damage your pipes. It is best that you leave the job of inspecting your pipes and cleaning your drains to a professional plumber. This way, your drains will be saved, and the professional plumber will provide you with a resolution to prevent any future issues.
7. Clear the Area
You can clear the area as you wait for your plumber to arrive. This will ensure that your plumber has easy access to the issue. This is also a perfect time to move any pets into a safe and secure area to avoid disruption.
8. Wait for Your Emergency Plumber
After you completely do everything mentioned above, your last step is to simply wait for your plumber to arrive and fix the problem.
Frequently Asked Questions
How often should you maintain your hot water heater?
You should have your water heater serviced at least once per year. The most important part of water heater maintenance is flushing the tank. If you don’t flush it, sediment will build up inside your water heater’s tank.
How long do water heaters run per day?
In the average home, the water heater will run for about three hours each day. Total run time can range from one to two hours for new tankless water heaters to five or more hours for older tank style water heaters.
What happens if you never flush your water heater?
If not regularly flushed, your water heater can corrode more quickly. The sediment can also block or clog the pressure and relief valve (which helps keep your water heater from exploding).
How long do water heaters last?
A hot water heater’s lifespan depends on many factors, including the type of water heater, the energy source, the type of water you have, and how well the unit is maintained. On average, most water heaters last between 8 and 12 years but some can last up to 20 years with regular maintenance.