ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

How to Properly Maintain a Water Heater

Updated on October 1, 2017

Water heaters are an essential part of the plumbing system in a home, yet they are often mostly forgotten by home owners. While they do not require frequent maintenance, they do require attention. It is important to be knowledgeable on both how it works, signs that something is wrong and when to complete routine maintenance, both individually or through a plumber. Moreover, it is important to know these things now rather than waiting until the unit fails.

How It Works

There are currently two popular types of water heaters used by homeowners. Both types of water heaters have two use options: gas and electric. The standard electric version runs a current through electrical-resistant heating elements, usually at the middle and bottom of the tank. The standard gas types utilizes a burner situated under the tank and heats the water through the tank itself, which is worth noting that can cause more wear and tear than the electric version. Both heat and store the water for use in their respective tanks.

Most tanks are made of steel and glass-lined on the inside to prevent corrosion. A magnesium anode rod also helps this by corroding in it's place. The tanks maintain their temperature using insulation and a thermostat that powers each device as needed. When hot water is used, cold water enters through what is called the dip tube to replace it and triggers the thermostat with the change of temperature.

Tankless water heaters are much smaller fixtures with the removal of the tank. For these, when a hot water tap is turned on, cold water travels into the unit and is heated with either a gas burner or electrical elements. The hot water is generally created at a rate of 2 to 5 gallons per minute with these units.

Maintenance Required

The first time looking over a water heater, there are a few things that should to be checked. Beyond finding the unit and identifying the type, the first thing to check is the temperature, which is suggested to be set at 120°F. While this is less about the actual maintenance, it will reduce the cost of energy and the risk of scalding. This is done by measuring the temperature of the water and adjusting the thermostat on the water heater itself. Additionally, two feet of clearance around the water heater should be maintained at all times unless otherwise stated by the manual.

A few times a year, the water heater should be looked over and standard versions should be drained by at least a quarter of the tank. This is done to remove sediment and debris in the water. To do this, use either a bucket directly under the drain valve or a hose hook to it to direct the water into a container and run the water until it is clear. If it does not clear or there is a noticeably large amount of debris or sediments, a full flush might be advisable.

Annually, a full inspection should be done on the water heater. Start at the top and check for any leaks or heavy corrosion on the pipes and valves. For gas water heaters, check the draft hood and make sure it is placed properly with a few inches between the tank and where it connects to the vent. Look for any corrosion or wear on the gas line and on the piping. Check the thermostat and the area below the thermostat, where the gas chamber is located.

On top of all that, the temperature-pressure relief valve should be tested by quickly discharging it multiple times. If the unit is more than two or three years old, the anode rod should also be inspected annually. This can be done by loosening the hex head screw and removing it. If the rod has more than six inches of core steel wire exposed, the rod is less than a half inch thick or it is coated with calcium, it will need to be replaced.

If any black residue, soot or charred metal, is noticed at any time, this is a sign that there may be having combustion issues and should have the unit serviced by a professional. If there is ever the smell of gas, turn off the gas supply and contact a professional as well. For electric water heaters, look for any signs of leaking such as rust streaks or residue around the upper and lower panels covering the electrical components on the tank.

Replacing The Unit

Most professionals agree that even though the average lifespan of a water heater is between ten and fifteen years, a water heater does not need to be replaced if it is still operating. An exception to this may be upgrading for efficiency or an increased usage need. It also may be beneficial to replace the water heater if the cost of repairs is close to the cost of replacing, which usually falls between $900 and upwards of $3000.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)