We’ve had a relatively pleasant winter so far this year, but as we all know, a sudden cold spell in February or March can make it feel like spring will never come. With a few more months left of winter, now is a great time to make sure your water heater is working the way it should. Here is what you need to know.
As a water heater operates, it collects sediment that can cause decay if left in the tank over time. Don’t let this happen to yours. Drain your water heater at least twice a year to get rid of any buildup, which will prevent corrosion and increase the machine’s energy efficiency. To do this, first turn off the unit and give it plenty of time to cool down. Then, using a garden hose and pump, drain the water into a bucket. If the bucket becomes filled with brown, sediment-tainted water, continue to refill and drain your heater until the water looks normal again. When you’re in the clear, you can disconnect your hose and turn the unit back on.
Keep your water heater at a steady 120 degrees and lower it down if you’re planning on leaving the house for three days or more. For every 10 degrees, you decrease the temperature, you’ll save five percent in energy costs.
Insulate the tank and pipes with fiberglass. For the tank, fit a fiberglass blanket using foil tape, but be sure not to cover any valve or pipe openings. For the pipes, you can use fiberglass wrap or foam insulation. By adding a layer of insulation to your water heater, you’ll keep the warmth from escaping into the air and you’ll protect the machine from condensation in the warmer months.
If you have a valve that’s leaking, make sure that the fittings are nice and tight. If that doesn’t work, you might have to replace the valves or fittings. You can find the parts you’ll need at a local hardware store – just don’t forget to shut off the water first!
Remember, working with electric or gas appliances can be dangerous. If you’re not familiar with how your unit operates or if you’re not comfortable with this kind of work, contact a plumber for a routine maintenance check.
The average lifecycle of a water heater is about eight to twelve years and they can cost anywhere from $300 for an electric tank system to well over $1,000 for a tankless energy efficient natural gas machine. If you’re in the market for a new machine, do your research and make sure you maintain it regularly to ensure it will go the distance.
Bob O’Donnell is the owner of O’Donnell Bros. Inc., a Bristol-based home improvement company established in 1975. Email your questions for Bob to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Ask the Pro.” All questions may be considered for publication. To contact Bob for your remodeling needs, call O’Donnell Bros. Inc. at (860) 589-5155 or visit www.odonnellbros.com. Advice is for guidance only.