How to Maintain a Hot Water Heater

On average, people remember their water heater on two occasions. The first occurs while they let out a frantic gasp in a cold shower; the second happens when they receive the bill for the replacement cost.

However, some people think about the importance of water heater maintenance every day. They’re silently hoping you’ll call and invite them to service that unobtrusive unit that works tirelessly to provide hot water.

Basics of Water Heater Maintenance

One of the main reasons for flushing and draining your tank is to remove water scale buildup. Water isn’t always pure and can deposit lime and minerals like calcium and magnesium that form into a solid mass over time.

Components of hard water calcify on the bottom of your tank and prevent your heat coil from heating the water evenly, and eventually cause leaks. Over time, this buildup makes a defunct water heater challenging to move when it finally breaks down completely. 

Depending on your water quality, you may have to perform this task every few months. For ‘normal type’ water, you should flush and drain every six months. 

Here is an excellent video for those brave enough to attempt this water tank flushing. We bet you didn’t know that the easiest method to prevent water heater failure is to call us. 

Key Considerations Before Attempting to Flush a Water Heater

Consult your water heater manual and review the thermostat/pilot light setting. Or call your local plumber and have them visit for a service call. 

What you need:

  • Water tank manual
  • Garden Hose
  • Bucket
  • Step ladder (optional)
  • Screwdriver
  • Bucket/Container
  • Patience
  • Wet vacuum for stubborn sediment

For electric water heaters, switch off the breaker. For gas, turn off the heat.

  1. Switch off the cold water supply at the tank or source
  2. Carefully connect a garden hose to the spigot on the water tank
  3. Allow air to flow into the tank by turning on any hot water faucet in the house
  4. Open the drain valve, usually just a quarter turn with a screwdriver until in line with the drain. You may need to engage the pressure relief valve. Use caution as this is a safety feature; the switch bends upward for open
  5. You should hear gurgling, inspect the water draining from the hose
  6. Don’t allow children, pets, or plants near this potentially harmful water
  7. Spray cold water into the tank and repeat 3-4 times, and flush in bursts
  8. Check water by pouring samples into a clean bucket. Here you’ll see the sediment
  9. Flush and agitate until water runs clear
  10. Fill again with cold water and open the valve on top of the heater, close the valve on the drain (screwdriver), and switch the pressure valve off (down)
  11. When you think the tank is full (quiet), open the valve (screwdriver) and close the inlet valve; drain again; check for sediment
  12. Repeat filling again; remember to close the pressure valve
  13. Listen for the sound of water filling, gradually making less noise; close the pressure valve
  14. Reset the thermostat to the desired temperature; the pilot light will engage
  15. Open a hot water faucet to remove air from the system

At Merit Plumbing, we’re so passionate about this appliance that we put together this list to show you how to maintain the life of your water heater and avoid the pitfalls of water heater failure and eventual water heater replacement. Easy, right? If you have any problems, we’re here to help.