Many homeowners don’t know that water heater manufacturers recommend annual maintenance.
Water heater maintenance includes:
- Performing a thorough water heater flush
- Inspecting the condition of the anode rod
- Verifying proper operation of the T&P relief valve
Tank Type Water Heaters
For a tank type water heater, a thorough flush consists of more than just draining the tank. The water heater should be flushed multiple times to stir up the sediment at the bottom of the tank so it can drain properly. Sediment build up in the tank decreases the energy efficiency, accelerates deterioration of the anode rod and increases wear and tear on the tank walls. The main objective of the flush is to remove as much sediment as possible.
Tankless Water Heaters
Tankless water heater flushes should also be performed annually. There is no tank where sediment can build up but scale can accumulate inside the heat exchanger. The heat exchanger is a continuous series of copper tubing above a burner where the water gets heated. When scale accumulates inside the heat exchanger energy efficiency decreases and wear and tear is accelerated. To flush a tankless water heater, a diluted descaling agent is pumped through the system, removing the scale.
Anode rods are found in tank type water heaters, not tankless. The anode rod sits inside of the water heater protecting the tank walls from corrosion. Aggressive minerals attack the anode rod instead of the tank walls. The anode rod is a sacrificial rod meant to wear down over time. Checking the anode rod during the annual maintenance and replacing it when necessary can extend the life of a water heater. If the anode rod is half the original diameter or any of the steel core is showing it is recommended to replace.
The T&P relief valve is a safety device that should be exercised periodically to maintain proper operation. T&P stands for temperature and pressure. If the temperature or pressure exceeds the operating limits the valve automatically opens relieving any excess.
Tank type water heaters have a T&P relief valve located on the side or top attached to an approved drain location.
Tankless water heaters have a temperature only relief valve since there is no tank to hold pressure. The relief valve on a tankless water heater is located somewhere on the hot water outlet piping and is drained similar to the T&P of a tank type water heater.
Importance of Water Heater Maintenance
Proper water heater maintenance can significantly extend the life and energy efficiency of a tank or tankless water heater. Another factor to take into consideration is the quality of water in the home. Treated water (ie: water softener, conditioner, filtration) vs untreated (no filtration). Overall use of the water heater and operating temperature also play a part in a water heaters lifespan.