Maintaining Your Hot Water Heater
Water Heaters are very easy to maintain. At least twice a year, take a look at yours. Use the checklist provided below to cover the basics:
- Look at the manufacturer’s plate and record the age and capacity. The date of manufacture is usually found in the first four digits of the serial number. The capacity should be listed on the plate. Electric water heaters typically have an expected life of 10-15 years.
- Starting at the top and working toward the bottom, do you see any leaks, rust, or corrosion?
- Locate the cold water supply line and confirm a non-leaking shut-off valve.
- Confirm the cold water supply line enters the water heater at the point labeled ‘Cold’.
- Locate the hot water supply line exiting at the point marked ‘Hot’. Try running hot water at the closest tap and check the temperature by feeling the pipe.
- Confirm the Temperature Pressure Relief Valve (TPRV) is connected to an extension pipe that drops to within 6 inches of the floor.
- Locate the two panel covers at the front middle and lower areas of the heater. Remove both panels, using caution not to touch electrical wires, and confirm temperature adjustment. It should be between 120-125 degrees Fahrenheit. Higher than 130F increases risk of scalding.
- With the panels off, note the exterior condition of the heating elements. Rusty? These can be easily replaced. Note: you must turn off the power to the unit and drain the tank before doing so. Replace panels.
- Inspect the drain valve at the bottom of the tank. Check for leaking. Remember to open valve and drain any sediment buildup at least once a year. You may need a hose extension to the floor drain or hose and pump to the exterior. A word of caution: never drain more than a gallon while the electrical power is on to the unit. Never turn on unit until tank is full of water. When draining, continue the process until water is clear.
- Confirm a drain pan is positioned under the tank, especially if on or over the floor of living space. This will allow a forewarning should your tank develop a leak.
The benefits of caring for your water heater are clear. Adding insulation reduces heat loss by up to 45 percent and can shave as much as 9 percent off water-heating costs.
Buy some self-sticking 3/8-inch-thick foam pipe insulation that matches the pipes' diameter. Slide the foam over the hot- and cold-water pipes as far as you can reach. Insulating the cold-water pipe prevents condensation in summer. Peel the tape and squeeze the insulation closed. If the pipe is 6 inches or less from the flue, cover it with 1-inch-thick unfaced fiberglass pipe wrap.