Updated June 2, 2021 . AmFam Team
You might only appreciate your water heater in the winter months when it provides comforting hot showers and relaxing warm baths, but paying attention to it year-round can save you from spending too much money — and a brutal cold shower. We’ve put together a list of tips that will help you keep your water heater in prime condition and spot trouble long before it hits.
Getting a good look at your water heater’s current health can help you keep it in good shape and prepare for when you’ll need a new one. Take a look at our tips for finding out your water heater’s health and knowing when to fix it.
Check your water heater’s age. If your water heater is already acting up and isn’t as efficient as it used to be, it’s worth checking its age. When you purchased your home, you should have received documents with information on all included appliances. Look for the model and serial numbers, too, and do some research on how long your water heater’s life span typically is.
Test the pressure relief valve. Corrosive materials can build up inside your water heater and make it ineffective at its job. When that happens, it’ll often corrode its pressure relief valve, too. The valve lets off pressure when it gets too high inside the heater. It’s often located at the top of the heater with a downspout aimed down at a drain. Push the lever to release water, being careful to avoid the hot water being released. If water doesn’t come out, call a professional to replace it as soon as possible.
Check for leaks. Look on the floor near your water heater for any dripping or standing water, plus any water near connected valves or pipes. A leak could mean a higher water bill and a less-than-efficient water heater, so consult a professional as soon as possible if you find one. Check out how a water leak sensor can help prevent costly water damage.
Flush the tank once per year. Emptying your tank and filling it with fresh water is a great way to figure out how the inner-workings of your water heater are faring. First, turn your water heater off. Turn the water heater’s temperature control to off, too. Locate its cold-water supply and turn it off, as well. Then, open a hot water faucet in a tub or sink nearby to reduce the pressure in your pipes. Attach a hose to the water heater’s drain valve, put the other end of a hose in a deep bucket, and let the water loose. Be careful to use a bucket that can withstand very hot water. Look for any sediment in the water that might indicate the need for inspection or repairs, then dispose of the water once it’s cooled.
Check your pilot light. If you have a gas water heater, it’ll have a pilot light that serves as the ignitor for the gas that heats your water. If your flame appears to be weak, more yellow than orange or flickers, have it checked out by a professional immediately.
Get a yearly water heater inspection. Having your water heater professionally checked out can save you from some complicated and potentially dangerous tasks. A professional will take a look at your water heater’s anode rod, which helps keep corrosive materials out of your water, and should not be tested by anyone not trained to do so.
If you’re not one-hundred percent comfortable performing any of the above actions, don’t be afraid to hire a licensed professional.
Even if your water heater is working perfectly, you can still make it more efficient and adjust its settings to save you money. Here are some of our tips for making your water heater work better — and cheaper — for you.
Insulate your heater and pipes. Buying insulation from a hardware store and using it to keep your heater and pipes from losing too much heat can save you plenty of money on your monthly heating bill. When having a professional come in to give an inspection, ask them for advice on installation and if they offer the service themselves.
Adjust your water heater’s temperature. If you can stand to give up a few degrees in your morning shower, drop your heater’s thermostat about 10 degrees to save even more money on your heating bill.
Don’t use as much hot water. Using less hot water will be easier on your water heater and your heating bill. Weigh your options — would you rather have a tad less heat while you’re having a bath, or a few extra dollars in your pocket?
Actively maintaining your water heater is more than just a good economic choice — it’s a good choice for you and your family’s safety. To get even more peace of mind, get in touch with your American Family Insurance agent (Opens in a new tab) and make sure your policy has all the right coverages.
Want more tips for keeping your home in great shape? Head to our home maintenance hub for more tips and resources on how to maintain your home all year long.