The water heater in your home can account for almost a quarter of your utility expenses. With almost 20% of your power bill devoted to heating water from the home, one must take steps to maintain the water heater. Longevity in the water heater will help you get more energy savings from newer models, and keep older models running efficiently.
The first thing you should do is set the gas valve to “Pilot.” When you flush a water heater, which you should do every three months or based on your manufacturer specifications, pilot mode keeps the burners from coming on. The pilot light should also burn blue fairly steadily, so be wary of pilot lights with a temperature that is too hot.
Locate the bell housing on your unit, then strike a match near it. If the flue is draining air properly, the smoke from the match will travel upwards. You can also check the status of the burners by removing the flame shield. Turn your thermostat up a bit and check that the flames are still burning blue.
To service an electric heater, you have to shut down the circuit breaker. This drains power to the unit, allowing you to work with exposed wires and pieces without fear of electrocution.
Testing the temperature of your water heater is a good gauge to see if the unit is working properly. Locate the extension pipe on your water heater and place a bucket beneath it. Open the valve and let the water flow. Close the valve and be sure that there are no leaks coming from the unit. Once you’ve confirmed that water is flowing normally, and the unit has not sprung a leak, set your thermostat to the manufacturer’s recommendation (usually 120 degrees Fahrenheit).
Draining sediment from the tank is another helpful operation that will keep your tank from losing heat. Find a garden hose and attach one end of it to the drainage valve on your water heater. Leave the other end of the hose outside, or near a drain. Be especially careful at this point, as the water may be scalding hot. Once you have the hose fitted, turn the thermostat down and shut off the supply of cold water. Open the valve and drain the unit, which will take the sediment that the unit has collected out of the tank.
The final piece of maintenance is to open a hot water faucet and let the water run until it is free of air bubbles. Your heater will function more efficiently, and have a longer life.