How to Maintain A Water Heater
Use these 6 easy and inexpensive ways to increase your water heater's efficiency and longevity
Q: Replacing my older water heater isn't in the budget right now. What can be done to make it run efficiently?
—David Tichy, Fairfield, Conn.
Lance Marques, HVAC contractor, Swezey Fuel Co., replies: There are several easy and inexpensive ways to increase a water heater's operating efficiency and longevity. Some things—adding insulation and setting the temperature—have to be done only once. Others, such as flushing the tank and checking the anode rod, should be done annually.
The benefits of caring for your water heater are clear. Adding insulation reduces heat loss by up to 45 percent and can shave as much as 9 percent off water-heating costs. Flushing sediment from the tank improves efficiency and longevity. And making sure a viable anode rod hangs in the tank will help prevent its inside from rusting out. A used-up rod is far cheaper to replace than a new heater.
Just follow these steps to make your hot water less expensive.
Pictured: This rusty wire is all that remains of what was once a ¾-inch anode rod made of aluminum or magnesium. Without the rod, hot water rapidly corrodes the inside of the tank, shortening its life.
Test the TPR Valve
Shut off the power and the cold-water supply valve. Place a bucket under the pipe connected to the temperature-pressure-release (TPR) valve on the top or side of the tank. (This valve opens if the tank pressure gets too high.) Lift the valve's tab to let some water out, then let go. If water keeps flowing, drain the tank partway, unscrew the old valve with a pipe wrench, and install a new one.