Water Heater Maintenance Checklist

The maintenance of a water heater is essential to prevent the inconvenience of a sudden breakdown. Water heater repair bills can accumulate rapidly, often ranging from $150 to $300 for even the most basic fixes. These maintenance tips will help you extend its lifespan beyond the average 10-15 years, saving you a bundle in the long run.

Signs Your Water Heater Needs Maintenance:

Before it breaks down completely, it usually shows some warning signs.

  • Inconsistent Water Temperature: If you’re experiencing hot water that suddenly turns cold or never quite gets hot enough, it’s a sign that your water heater needs attention.
  • Discolored Water: Rusty or muddy water is often a sign of sediment buildup in the tank, which requires flushing.
  • Strange Noises: Popping, rumbling, or cracking sounds can indicate that the heating elements are interacting with the sediment buildup, reducing efficiency.
  • Low Water Pressure: This could be due to sediment buildup or issues with the inlet valve.
  • Frequent Heating Element Failures: If you replace the heating elements often, it’s a sign that your water heater needs comprehensive maintenance.

Water Heater Maintenance

4 Types of Water Heater Maintenance

Depending on the issues you’re facing, you have preventive or corrective water heater maintenance.

1. Preventive Maintenance

Preventive maintenance is all about proactively maintaining your water heater to avoid future malfunctions, and most of these tasks are DIY-friendly.

2. Check and Change the Anode Rod

The anode rod is a disposable rod designed to rust over time through a process known as galvanic corrosion. This rod corrodes, so the water heater does not, lasting around 3 to 5 years. Here’s how to check and replace it:

  • Drain a few gallons of water from the tank.
  • Locate the anode rod’s hex head.
  • Unscrew the old rod and inspect it.
  • If it’s worn or coated with calcium, replace it with a new one.

3. Drain the Sediment Trap (Tank Flushing)

When sediment accumulates at the bottom of your water heater, it works less efficiently. Here’s how to drain your heater:

  • Turn off the water supply.
  • Attach a hose to the drain valve.
  • Open the drain valve and wait for the water to flow out.
  • Once the water runs clear, close all valves and remove the hose.

4. Corrective Maintenance

For more complex issues, you’ll need a certified plumber. These include:

  • Replacing Faulty Heating Elements: Call a professional if your hot water supply dwindles or turns lukewarm.
  • Fixing a Leaking Tank: Leaks can indicate serious issues like sediment buildup, faulty valves, or cracks. Depending on the severity, you may need a replacement.

How Often Should You Perform Preventive Maintenance?

You should perform a regular maintenance check every year.

  • Annual Inspection: A thorough inspection by a certified technician should be done annually.
  • Bi-Annual Flushing: For homes with hard water, flushing the tank every six months can prevent sediment buildup.
  • Anode Rod Check: Inspect the anode rod every two years or annually if you have hard water.
  • Temperature and Pressure Relief Valve: Test this valve at least once a year to ensure it’s functioning correctly.

The Cost of Water Heater Maintenance

Basic preventive maintenance like flushing the tank or replacing the anode rod can cost as little as $20 to $50 if you do it yourself.

However, an annual inspection by a certified technician can range from $70 to $150. Some service providers offer annual maintenance packages, including inspection, flushing, and minor repairs, ranging from $200 to $400.

Benefits of Water Heater Maintenance

Regular maintenance of your water heater offers several advantages:

  • Boost Energy Efficiency: A failing water heater consumes more energy to heat less water, increasing utility bills.
  • Prolong Lifespan: While most tank water heaters last 10 to 15 years and tankless versions exceed 15, regular upkeep can add years to these numbers.
  • Minimize Leak Risks: Leaks often result from age, faulty valves, or sediment buildup. Routine maintenance can mitigate these issues.
  • Enhance Water Quality: Sediment and rust compromise water quality and energy efficiency. Regular flushing improves both.

How to Choose a Water Heater Service Provider

Consider these tips next time you hire an experienced plumber to service your water heater:

  • Ask for recommendations. Ask friends, family members, neighbors, or coworkers who may point you in the right direction.
  • Check online reviews. Reading customer reviews on water heater service providers on websites like Google or Yelp can offer insight into their services’ quality and customer satisfaction.
  • Verify licensing and credentials. Ensure the service provider is licensed and certified to work on water heaters in your area. You can typically verify this information through your state or local licensing board.
  • Insurance and bonding. Confirm the service provider has liability insurance and is bonded. This ensures you are protected in case of accidents such as water leaks and related damages during the service.
  • Experience and expertise. Inquire about the technician’s experience with water heaters. Performing repairs on water heaters is tricky, and experienced technicians are more likely to diagnose and resolve issues effectively.
  • Ensure their work is warranted and guaranteed. Ask whether their replacement parts have a warranty or if they guarantee their work. Reputable providers are always willing to stand behind their services.
  • Compare multiple quotes. Search for multiple service providers in your area. Many reputable providers offer online quotes you can fill out from home. Use them and get at least three quotes. Compare their prices and services to determine which works best for your needs.

When it comes to the lifespan of your water heater, proactive maintenance is key. By regularly inspecting and servicing, your unit can extend its life well beyond the average 10 to 15 years. Start your preventive maintenance today, and you’ll save money, enjoy better performance, and extend the life of your unit.