The standard water heater is a very simple device. Not much more than an insulated tank filled with water and a heating source usually electricity or gas, controlled by a thermostat that monitors the temperature of the water inside the tamk. As hot water is removed from the top of the tank cold water fills from the bottom. One piece of safety equipment worth mentioning is the Temperature and pressure relief valve that will open and relive the pressure of expanding water should a problem occur with the thermostat. The T&P valve operates at 180 degrees so any water that would come out of this valve has the potential to injure anyone that may be in the area. The plumbing for the T&P valve should be routed to the exterior of the house for safety.
Annual Maintenance to Protect Your Water Heater
Water heaters are in every house in one shape on another and work day and night heating water, and all require a minimum amount of maintenance. I recommend that water heaters be flushed out once a year to remove the build-up of calcium in the bottom of the tank. This will keep your water heater working as well as a new one, and could extend its life by several years. A good time to clean out a water heater is June 1st, every year the start of Hurricane season which is widely publicized in Florida, which is your cue to get out your garden hose and clean out your water heater. Remember that in an emergency situation you have 50 gallons of water to work with just sitting there.
Start by hooking up any garden hose to the drain valve at the bottom of your water heater, route the hose outside, and open the valve. The end of the hose that is outside is best placed in a bucket so that you can see when the water runs clear. If you haven’t done this before, you will be surprised by what comes out. No need to shut off the electrical breaker to the water heater because the water in tank will be replaced by incoming cold water as its drained. The water draining out will only be warm due to the fact that the hot water rises to the top of the tank, so you will only be removing the coldest water in the tank at the very bottom. Let the water run from the hose for several minutes to flush out all the sediment in the bottom of the tank. This sediment is calcium and minerals that have built up on the heating elements and flaked off. This sediment will over time build-up to a point that it can cover the lower heating element and reduce its ability to heat the water, possibly even cause the element to overheat and burn out. In a gas water heater this build up will insulate the bottom of the tank where the heating takes place, causing the burner to operate longer to heat the water. Build up in a gas water heater can also cause the water to boil at the bottom of the tank; this can be the source of unusual noises such as hissing and popping. This is just a little something that you can do to get your house ready for hurricane season, and it only takes a few minutes.