How to Properly Maintain Your Water Heater

How to Properly Maintain Your Water Heater

Water heaters supply your home with the hot water used for showering, washing dishes and laundry. They use a combination of heating and energy-saving features to meet household demand.

Traditional units have insulated tanks with capacities ranging from 20 to 80 gallons and can be powered by electricity, gas, propane or fuel oil. When tank readings drop, the thermostat signals a heating element to come on and heat water back up to prescribed temperatures.

Energy Efficiency

Energy used for heating water accounts for almost 20% of your home’s energy usage, second only to the cost of heating and cooling your house. That’s why it’s important to have an energy-efficient electric boiler solution in place that can help you reduce your household energy costs.

The main rating to look at when selecting a new water heater is its UEF (Uniform Energy Factor) rating. The higher the UEF, the less energy your heater will use to produce hot water. Your water heater should have a UEF rating on its user manual or on a label attached to the unit.

A UEF is calculated by performing a 24-hour simulated test on residential water heaters. During this testing period, the number of gallons of water drawn from the tank in six equally spaced draws that begin one hour apart is recorded. The energy consumed during these draws is compared to the energy required to recover the water temperature from standby losses, resulting in a UEF rating.

If your old water heater has a low UEF rating, it is inefficient and costs more to operate than a new high-efficiency model with the same tank size and fuel type. Upgrading your water heater is one of the easiest and most effective ways to reduce your home’s energy consumption. For even greater efficiency, you could consider a Heat Pump Water Heater (HPWH) that uses electricity to warm your water rather than gas.


If you’ve ever stood in the shower shivering, waiting for hot water to come out of your taps, you know that long pipes can add minutes to your shower time. Adding point-of-use water heaters at each sink and shower can greatly reduce this wait, but you must consider whether a centralized or individual unit is best for your needs.

Most standard water heaters are tank-type units, also called storage heaters. They store large amounts of hot water in a cylindrical tank, usually up to 80 gallons. They use electricity, natural gas, propane, heating oil or solar energy to heat the water.

The hot water service line (which goes to your faucets) connects to the heater through a dip tube that sits at the top of the tank. Since the hottest water is at the top and colder water is below it, the hottest water rises to the tap. The tank also has a drain valve near the base to empty sediment from the bottom of the tank, and a shut-off valve on the outside of the tank to cut off water flow if needed.

Some models have anti-scale devices that swirl the water in the tank to prevent mineral build-up on the heating element, but these aren’t necessary for most homeowners. What is important is a water heater that fits your energy needs, is the right size for your house and has a long warranty.


Your water heater may electric tankless heater seem intimidating, but with a little work you can easily maintain it. Just like any other home appliance, it needs to be properly maintained for optimal operation. A few simple tasks can help extend the life of your tank and keep your family healthy.

Make sure you understand the safety precautions associated with working on your water heater before starting any maintenance. If you’re uncomfortable doing this on your own, call a professional for assistance. Be careful not to touch any hot water, and always let the tank and pipes cool before completing close inspections.

Test the pressure-relief valve on a regular basis to ensure it is functioning as intended. To do this, place a bucket beneath the discharge pipe and lift the lever. If it doesn’t open, it’s time to replace the valve.

Drain the tank once or twice a year to remove sediments that collect at the bottom of the unit. These minerals are a breeding ground for bacteria, and they can also shorten the tank’s lifespan by increasing energy costs.

Check the sacrificial anode rod to make sure it isn’t heavily corroded. This rod attracts corrosive elements to it, rather than the tank itself, and should be replaced regularly to extend the life of your water heater. In addition, adding insulation to the hot-water pipes leaving your tank can further reduce energy losses.


Your home’s water heater is connected to your plumbing and gas lines, and proper installation and connection is important for safe and efficient operation. Some projects may require a permit and inspections to ensure that the work meets local building codes and safety regulations. Depending on your location, obtaining these permits can add to the overall project cost.

A plumber can provide a thorough installation of your new water heater to ensure it functions properly. This includes securing connections, soldering pipes and ensuring valves are correctly aligned and secured. This is an important job that should only be completed by a professional to prevent property damage or serious injury.

The installation of a new water heater requires the purchase of copper tubing, pipe adapters and a soldering iron. You can find these items at your local hardware store. Some water heater installations also require additional materials, such as gas or venting pipes, a drain pan and metal straps. Your installation pro can tell you if any of these items are needed for your project and can assist you in locating them.

Before beginning work, plumbers must shut off the water supply and gas flow to the tank or heater. The water shut-off is usually located above the heater on the cold water line, while gas is typically switched off at the control valve for the tank or at the main gas shutoff.

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