Your water heater is essential for both cleanliness and comfort, and the last thing you want is for it to suddenly fail or have issues that could make it unsafe. This is why it is always recommended to have your water heater maintained by a licensed plumber at least once every year, and this is true no matter what type of unit you have. Although traditional tank-style water heaters require a bit more maintenance, tankless units should also be inspected and maintained every year. To help you understand why, today we’ll be looking at exactly what water heater maintenance involves and why it’s so important.

Understanding the Importance of Water Heater Maintenance

As with any other major appliance like an air conditioner or furnace, a water heater requires regular inspection and maintenance to prevent potential issues and ensure it is still working correctly. If you neglect to have your water heater maintained, it generally won’t have nearly as long of a life and will likely need more frequent repairs.

Both gas and electric traditional water heaters have numerous components that could potentially fail and lead to higher energy costs and longer recovery times or cause the unit to stop working entirely. There are also many potential issues that could lead to safety hazards if you don’t have the unit inspected and maintained regularly.

When performing water heater maintenance, a plumber will check the gas burners or electric heating elements, anode rod, temperature and pressure relief valve (T&P) and all of the other major components. They will also clean the burner or heating elements to ensure they are still heating properly. One other essential part of maintenance is draining and flushing the unit to prevent sediment build-up or limescale from causing any issues.

How Water Heater Maintenance Helps Prevent Safety Hazards

One of the biggest reasons why water heater maintenance is so essential is that it will help to prevent most potential safety hazards. Although modern water heaters have a number of safety features, there is still always a risk that something could fail and cause the unit to be unsafe to operate.

For instance, if the T&P valve breaks or gets stuck closed, it creates a risk that the tank could explode due to high pressure. The T&P valve works to prevent the temperature and pressure inside the tank from ever rising too high. If the pressure does ever get about a set limit, the valve will open and let some water out to lower the pressure back to a safe level.

If you have a gas water heater, maintenance is especially important as it will help prevent carbon monoxide leaks and fire hazards. One common issue is that the exhaust flue can get clogged by debris or animals nesting inside where the pipe exits the building. Should this happen, the harmful combustion fumes can start to leak out and create a major risk of deadly carbon monoxide poisoning and other health issues. The only real way to ensure that this shouldn’t happen is to have a plumber test to make sure the exhaust flue is still venting correctly.

If the combustion fumes aren’t being vented outside properly, they can also fill the unit’s combustion chamber and cause the flames to escape or “roll out” of the unit. Flame rollouts are a serious issue as they have the potential to catch anything nearby the unit on fire.

Why Water Heater Flushing Is Essential

In addition to having the unit fully inspected and tested, you should also have your water heater flushed at least once a year. Flushing is important for both tankless and traditional water heaters, but for different reasons. Traditional water heaters are flushed to remove sediment build-up, whereas tankless units are flushed to prevent limescale from clogging the unit or damaging its components.

Both sediment and limescale build-up occur due to dissolved minerals in your water. The more minerals the water contains, the faster the sediment or limescale will build up. The fact that the Indianapolis area has extremely hard water means you may want to have your tank flushed twice a year instead due to the much higher mineral concentration.

Sediment build-up can create numerous issues for both gas and electric water heaters and is also the primary reason that most units fail prematurely. With electric units, the sediment can start to damage the lower electric heating element and cause it to stop producing as much heat or stop working entirely. It is possible to replace the heating element should it fail, but doing so can often be quite costly. This is why flushing is so important as it will help to prevent the heating element from being damaged.

With gas water heaters, the layer of sediment will basically insulate the bottom of the tank and absorb much of the heat produced by the unit’s burner. As such, the unit will heat much more slowly, which means higher energy costs and having to wait much longer for the tank to reheat after using up all of your hot water. The fact that the sediment absorbs so much heat also means it can create hot spots that can weaken the tank and potentially cause it to start leaking or even rupture.

Why a Water Heater’s Anode Rod Needs Inspected Yearly

The anode rod is another important feature found in all traditional water heaters that works to prevent rust and corrosion from damaging the tank and potentially causing it to leak. The anode rod is a long steel wire that is coated with either zinc or magnesium.

Whenever dissolved mineral ions enter the unit, they would normally react with the steel tank and start to corrode it. The anode rod ensures this doesn’t happen by basically sacrificing itself so that the minerals react with and corrode the rod instead of the tank. This means that the metal coating on the anode rod is always slowly eaten away and will eventually get to a point where the rod stops working and the metal tank then begins to corrode.

The anode rod typically needs to be replaced every three to five years or potentially even more often in homes with much harder water. If you’re diligent about having the anode rod inspected and replaced whenever needed, your water heater could potentially last for 15 years or more. On the other hand, the unit is likely to fail and start leaking in less than 10 years if you don’t ever have the anode rod replaced.

The only real way to know when the rod needs to be replaced is to open the unit up and visually inspect it. Unfortunately, this is not something you can safely do on your own, which is yet another reason why annual water heater maintenance is so important.

Professional Water Heater and Plumbing Services

At Cooper’s Water, we specialize in the full range of water heater services. Our team has years of experience maintaining and repairing all types of water heaters, and we also carry a wide selection of tankless and traditional units should you need to have your current water heater replaced. We also service and install water softeners and water filtration systems as well as all other plumbing appliances and fixtures. Give us a call today to schedule water heater maintenance or any other plumbing service in the Indianapolis area.

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