Hot water heater maintenance and service guide for the efficient water heating and longer unit life. Find out which elements have to be maintained and how often. The article covers both electric and gas powered heaters but with the emphasis on the gas models.
Keep in mind that properly installed water heater will bring years of reliable, dependable and safe water heating. As with any other device, the unit may require preventive maintenance and occasional repair.
The hot water heater maintenance should be done per manufacturer's instructions and performed by the licensed technician, but for those who are looking to save, simple maintenance procedures and tips are listed below as the DIY project.
If your gas water heater is installed in the dirty environment with the excessive amount of dirt, lint, and dust, you should vacuum the base of the heater and clean its elements more often than recommended. It is imperative to maintain the arrestor and base filter clean so the gas combustion chamber can get an unobstructed air flow. The recommendation is to clean the base filter at least once a year.
The anode rod, which is used to protect the metal water heater tank from corrosion, deteriorates over time. Maintain the rod in a good state to keep the tank in operating condition longer. Replace the anode rod if depletion is 1/2 of the original rod diameter or steel core is exposed. Inspect the rod once a year.
In order to clean the combustion chamber, main gas burner, pilot burner and the thermocouple you should remove the burner assembly first. You can use the vacuum cleaner and stiff brush to remove all the debris and scale from the combustion chamber, burner surface, and burner ports.
A gas burner should be visually inspected for proper operation every 6 months. It should burn with the blue flame and some yellow color at the tip. After a minute of operation, the burner should operate in radiant mode and glow bright orange.
If there is an insufficient combustion air supply use the compressed air to clear the flame arrestor from the dirt accumulation.
Inspect the pilot orifice for blockage. It must be cleaned or replaced if clogged. Check for the kinks or cracks in the pilot tube. The pilot must be replaced if damaged.
When the igniter button is pressed the electric spark is generated, which ignites the pilot light. The spark gap of 0.125” is factory set and should be maintained for the proper work. When inspecting the igniter, a visible spark should jump from the tip of the electrode while testing. Sometimes this igniter can be covered by the dirt and rust which would prevent the spark. Use the damp cloth and wipe it clean. Dry completely. If the rust is persistent use the fine grit sandpaper.
A dip tube should also be inspected from time to time as the broken tube can cause the gas water heater to produce less hot water than expected, as it is diluting hot with cold water. Inspect the dip tube and look for the possible cracks and deformation. If you find any, the element must be replaced.
An unobstructed venting system is very important for the safe operation of the water heater. Remove the draft hood and flue baffle once a year and clean the venting system from debris. Make sure that all the vent connectors are properly positioned and securely attached. Look for the signs of sooting and deformation.
At least once a year check if the relief valve operates freely. Lift and release the handle on the TPR valve (temperature and pressure relief valve), located near the top of the unit and let the few gallons of water out, through the discharge pipe to an open drain. If this safety valve, for some reason, cannot open and release the pressure, the water heater can deform due to the extreme build-up pressure, even explode.
Drain a few gallons of water every several months to remove or reduce the sediments from the tank. The sediment buildup inside the tank and heater's elements can clog the plumbing lines and reduce the efficiency.
As seen from the above, the guide to the proper hot water heater maintenance is not complicated, and by following the recommendations from the manufacturers and professionals, it can provide years of trouble-free service. Regular maintenance and clean water heater are the first things that should be considered when troubleshooting the heaters.