How to Maintain Your Water Heater

Your water heater is a crucial appliance that provides the hot water necessary for your daily activities like showering, washing dishes, and doing laundry.

It’s also a modern luxury that we tend to take for granted as many homeowners often overlook the importance of regular maintenance for their water heaters, leading to reduced efficiency and potential breakdowns.

Replacing Your Water Heater Takes Time, Money

Replacing your water heater requires more time (and cash!) than a quick trip to your local hardware store.

“A water heater is a vital home appliance that homeowners rely on to provide hot water for bathing, cleaning, and cooking. According to Angi and HomeAdvisor, the average water heater replacement cost can range from $810 to $1,656, with the national average around $1,217, depending on the type and size of the water heater,” says the Bob Vila home advice website.

Of course, that $1,200 price range is for a traditional water heater with tankless and hybrid water heater models running double that price and as high as $5,000 per installation.

And do not forget that costs associated with a water heater replacement can skyrocket if your current water heater leaks or ruptures.

“As many adjusters know, water heater failure often leads to significant property damage,” says Property Casualty 360. “According to an IBHS study, 69 percent of all water heater failures result from a slow leak or a sudden burst. A residential water heater holds 20 to 80 gallons of water, which can cause significant water damage to property upon failure.”

The Remodeling Calculator says that in 2023 the average cost of water damage repair in your home ranges from a low of $3,780 to an average of $8,900 to a high of $14,300.

Water Heaters Will Need to be Replaced at Some Point

The Bob Vila website also says that a traditional tank-type water heater will last an average of 8 to 12 years, and a tankless water heater can last up to 20 years, sometimes even longer.

“There are many factors that affect a water heater’s life expectancy. In addition to its age and whether it receives regular maintenance, the quality of the water and the levels of regular usage also affect the water heater lifespan,” says the Bob Villa website.

Several factors influence how long a water heater will last. Understanding these factors can help you make the most of your investment:

  • Usage: The more hot water demanded, the harder the heater works, potentially shortening its lifespan.
  • Water Quality: Hard water with high mineral content can lead to sediment buildup and corrosion, negatively affecting the heater's efficiency and lifespan.
  • Maintenance: Regular maintenance, including draining the tank, flushing out sediment, and inspecting for issues, can prolong the water heater's life.
  • Installation Quality: A professionally installed water heater is likely to perform better and last longer.
  • Temperature Settings: Excessively high temperatures can cause accelerated wear and tear, so setting the temperature appropriately is essential.

The Importance of Water Heater Maintenance

The significance of maintaining your water heater to extend its lifespan and keep it running smoothly cannot be overlooked.

When a water heater reaches the end of its life, homeowners and landlords will incur expenses for a new unit and its installation.

Water heater maintenance can ensure:

  • Enhanced Efficiency: Regular maintenance ensures that your water heater operates at its optimal efficiency. A well-maintained heater will heat water more effectively, saving energy and reducing utility bills.
  • Extended Lifespan: Proper care can significantly extend the lifespan of your water heater. By preventing sediment buildup and addressing minor issues promptly, you can avoid premature replacements.
  • Safe Operation: Neglecting maintenance can lead to safety hazards like gas leaks or electrical malfunctions. Routine inspections can detect potential problems and prevent accidents.

10 Helpful Tips for Maintaining Your Water Heater

There is more than one way to properly maintain your water heater. Try these 10 helpful tips to keep your hot water flowing without interruption:

  • Regular Inspection: Check for leaks, unusual noises, or signs of corrosion regularly. Often your water heater is stored in a hard-to-reach location so inspection might require going into your attic or basement periodically. You will want to look for any internal rust or corrosion, which is one of the most common reasons for a leaking water heater.
  • Drain and Flush: Drain the tank annually to remove sediment buildup, which can hinder performance. Flushing the tank can help mitigate scale build-up in your water tank. Scale build-up can lead to the failure of a water heater.
  • Temperature Check: Ensure the temperature is set to a safe and energy-efficient level (around 120°F or 49°C). Most professional plumbers recommend a setting between 120 and 140 degrees, with those with younger children in the home keeping it on the low end. While below 120 degrees can allow harmful bacteria to start to grow in your tank, while above 140 degrees can increase the risk of scalding.
  • Insulate the Heater: Consider adding an insulating blanket to retain heat and improve efficiency. Insulating your tank, as well as the pipes running to it, can help prevent issues such as a deep freeze in the winter which can cause leaks and water damage.
  • Test the Temperature Pressure Relief (TPR) Valve: Annually test the pressure relief valve to ensure it's working correctly. Remember to shut off the power and the cold-water supply valve before placing a bucket under the pipe connected to the TPR valve. This is the valve that opens if tank pressure gets too high.  
  • Check Anode Rod: Inspect and replace the anode rod every few years to prevent corrosion. While hot water heaters last 8 to 12 years, the anode rod may only last 3 to 5 years before needing replacement.
  • Keep the Area Clear: Maintain a clear area around the water heater for proper ventilation and accessibility. Keeping clutter away from your water heater will ensure that flammable materials do not get near (such as paint and gas cans) that can cause a fire hazard.
  • Monitor Water Quality: Install a water softener if hard water is an issue to minimize sediment buildup. Hard water can put stress on your water heater and shorten its lifespan.
  • Address Issues Promptly: If you notice any problems, like leaks or unusual noises, call a professional for timely repairs.
  • Schedule Professional Maintenance: Enlist the services of a qualified technician such as Pilot Plumbing for comprehensive inspections at least once a year.

Proper water heater maintenance is a small investment that yields significant returns in terms of efficiency, cost savings, and safety.

Routine maintenance not only saves you money but also enhances your overall comfort and peace of mind.

Schedule a water heat maintenance call today with family-owned and operated Pilot Plumbing in the North Houston and Montgomery County area.


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