Most people don’t think there’s a whole lot to do when it comes to
maintaining your home’s water heater. That’s not exactly true. Although a
water heater can run for years without any problems, there’s a potential for
great danger should something go wrong. Being burned by scalding water,
sickened or killed by poisonous gas or having your house burned down due to
an out of control gas-fed fire are just a few of the things that can go
wrong when a water heater isn’t working properly.
Unless you have professional experience working with water heaters, it’s
best to hire a licensed service company to make sure everything is in proper
working order and the system is operating safely and efficiently. These are
a few of the things your service company should be doing when they do
perform maintenance on your tank.
Draining the tank
Unless your water heater is drained regularly (even if it is a
“self-cleaning” design), you should have your tank drained once a year. This
will help prevent sediment build-up at the bottom of your tank that can rob
capacity and efficiency.
Inspecting the anode rod
Not many people do this but replacing the anode rod can extend the life of
your water heater. The purpose of the anode rod is to sacrifice itself to
save your tank. Instead of your tank rusting out, your anode rod
deteriorates due to an electrolytic process.
Checking the gas pressure
This step is often overlooked, even by qualified installers. Proper gas
pressure is important to insure the system is operating efficiently, and
safely. The system is designed to work within a particular pressure range.
Pressures outside that range can cause simple problems or dangerous
Testing the Temperature/Pressure Relief Valve
This is the most critical safety component on your water heater. If it
doesn’t work when it needs to, the pressure build-up in your tank can cause
a catastrophic incident. The T&P valve should open when temperatures or
pressures get too high in the tank. Your service company can test it and
replace it if necessary.
Checking the Flue Pipe
Another critical component of your system is the flue (vent) pipe,
especially if your water heater is located within your living area (as
opposed to an attic or garage). If your vent becomes clogged or damaged,
dangerous carbon monoxide (CO) can escape into your home. CO can make you
very sick and even kill you. It’s colorless and odorless so you may not even
know you have a problem until it’s too late.
Water Cut-off Valve
If there’s a leak in your tank, you want to be sure your cut-off valve will
work when the time comes. A lot of old valves won’t shut-off all the way due
to calcium build-up. Your service company can make sure the valve works by
opening and closing it after draining your tank.
These are just a few of the things that your service man should be checking.
Chances are, because of the technology in use today, your water heater will
probably work fine for a long time. That doesn't mean you shouldn't have it
checked out regulary. Call someone once a year to service your system.