Most of us would struggle to get through a single day without warm water for a shower, so it is important to take good care of your water heater. Should it break, you will be scrambling to call Roto-Rooter to repair or replace it so you can get on with your life. The truth is, most water heater problems can be prevented and their lives can be extended by following a few tips. If you are diligent, your water heater can live to a ripe old age, and you can retire and replace it on your own time.
Every year or so, you should perform a couple of quick maintenance tasks on your water heater. First, you should perform a mini-flush; this will remove any built up sediment from the bottom of the tank. To do this, you will only need a hose and a bucket or drain. Simply connect a hose to the drain valve, open the valve, and use the hose to direct the water into a nearby floor drain or bucket. While this process is similar on most models, be sure to check manufacturer instructions and warnings before beginning. Second, you should test the pressure relief valve. Carefully pull back on the pressure relief valve and a short burst of hot water should shoot out and into the drainpipe, be careful to keep your hands clear of this very hot water.
Just like your furnace, your water heater has a thermostat to control temperature. In most cases, your temperature should be set at 115 to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. If your thermostat is set to 125 degrees or higher, your water heater will use a lot of unnecessary energy and can wear itself out. Just like an automobile, the heavier the demand you place on it, the quicker it will wear out. Even if you are certain you last left the thermostat at a reasonable temperature, you should regularly check to make sure somebody hasn’t accidentally bumped it.
Hard water contains ions that can contribute to scale buildup, which can wreak havoc to the inside of a water heater tank, so installing a water softener will extend your water heater’s life. An ion-exchange water softener (the type that uses salt) is the best option, as descalers only treat the water for a few hours, and water sits in your tank longer than that. A water softener is an additional cost, but it benefits not only your water heater but other pipes and plumbing fixtures as well.
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