Maintaining Your Water Heater

Maintaining Your Water Heater

What would we do without hot water?  Hot showers, this simple luxury we so often take for granted, would have been the envy of kings in ages past.   Yet another thing to be grateful for this Thanksgiving season.

A couple years ago the Colson family upgraded their hot water heater to an 80-gallon capacity unit in order to accommodate their family and guests who would need simultaneous showers on different levels of the house.  The effect has been wonderful in that they never run out of hot water, but on the other hand, they have found that the larger unit bumped their electric bill up a bit.

To combat the problem, the Colson’s ordered a free energy analysis from their electric company.  In the process, the inspector gave them a few good tips–not only for lowering their monthly utility bills, but also for maintaining and safeguarding their hot water heater.

The following are a few noteworthy hints for keeping those water heaters healthy:

  1. Check the pressure relief valve by turning off the electricity to the water heater or turning the gas switch to pilot. Shut off the cold-water inlet to the water heater, and position a bucket to catch the water under the valve. Pull the trip lever on the valve. You should hear a slight rush of air or see some water and vapor exit through the pressure relief valve. If you don’t, drain the tank and replace the valve.
  2. Flush the tank every six months. Sediment buildup in the tank can reduce your water heater’s energy efficiency and also clog your water lines. Increase the life of your unit by flushing the tank each time you check the pressure relief valve. Easy flushing instructions are available at websites like Lowe’s.
  3. Check the Pilot Light.  A newly installed gas water heater will have some air in the gas line, so it may take several attempts to light the pilot. (Also, make sure the gas supply valve has been turned on). In some units, a red LED light blinking once every three seconds indicates the unit is working normally.
  4. Deal with leaks and drips. Most leaks are caused by faulty water supply connections, so check your fittings and pipes. Compression fittings are easier to use for do-it-yourselfers than soldering copper pipes. Drips from the temperature and pressure (T&P) relief valve discharge pipe usually mean a thermal expansion tank is needed.

When in doubt, give your plumber a call, and let a pro check things out.  The experts at Moon Valley Plumbing can conduct a quick, 8-point checkup on your system to make sure that you and your family enjoy the warmest – and safest- hot water system this holiday.