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Water Heater Maintenance: What to Expect

Your water heater, like most appliances, requires regular maintenance to ensure it operates effectively and efficiently for as long as possible. Neglecting water heater maintenance can lead to large repair expenses and early water heater replacement, not to mention higher utility bills. Learn more about water heater maintenance and what it entails. 

Step One: Inspection

Your plumber will start by performing a visual inspection of your water heater to look for leaks and signs of damage. The inspection can make you aware of possible upcoming problems before they occur. If a problem already exists, the plumber can repair it for you. 

Step Two: Flushing the Water Heater 

The most intregal part of water heater maintenance is flushing the water heater. Both tank water heaters and tankless water heaters require flushing at least once a year. Flushing a water heater involves running water through the system at high pressure to remove sediment buildup and debris in the unit. 

To flush a tank water heater, the plumber will empty the water heater tank, fill it up again, and drain it again repeatedly until the water comes out clean. 

To flush a tankless water heater, the plumber will need to use a pump and a bucket to force water through the unit. 

Step Three: Change Anode Rod

Most storage water heaters come with a sacrificial anode rod inside of them that attracts corrosive materials so that they corrode the anode rod instead of the tank. You need to replace the anode rod once every 1 - 3 years.

There are three main types of anode rods:

  • Aluminum - standard inexpensive option that requires regular replacement - best for hard water
  • Zinc - similar to an aluminum anode rod but with the added benefit of zinc, which eliminates rotten egg odors coming from your water heater
  • Magnesium - high-end aluminum rod that lasts longer but doesn't work great in hard water conditions

Tankless water heaters do not have an anode rod. 

Step Four: Tightening Valves and Connectors 

After completing the previous steps, your plumber will tighten the connections and valves on the unit to ensure they stay tight and don't leak. If you have a loose connection somewhere, they may replace it or add sealant. 

Don't let your water heater go unattended. It's easy to forget about water heater maintenance when the water heater is new and working properly. However, you will be glad you did it 10 to 15 years later when your water heater still operates properly.