Hot Water Heater Maintenance Tips

The benefits of caring for your water heater are clear, but it’s also very easy to forget and neglect water heater maintenance - until it’s too late. But with a little preventive maintenance, you can keep the hot water flowing and extend your water heater’s lifespan.


Here are some basic to-do’s to keep your water heater in tip-top shape.

  • Adjust the thermostat to 120 degrees. You’ll save up to 5% in energy costs for every 10 degrees you lower the temperature, plus you’ll reduce the risk of scalding.
    • If you have a gas water heater, the temperature can easily be adjusted with the thermostat located on the tank.
    • For an electric water heater, shut off power to the unit by flipping the breaker at the service panel. Pull back any insulation to expose the thermostat. Use a screwdriver to change the thermostat temperature in 10-degree increments. Close the panel, turn the power on, and check the water temperature after one hour. Adjust again if necessary.
  • Drain about a quarter of the tank a few times a year to remove sediment and debris. Turn off the gas or power and cold water supply to the tank. Open a hot water tap and the pressure release valve, then use a hose and bucket to drain the water from the tank until it runs clear and free of sediment. If you have a lot of sediment in your tank, you’ll need to empty it completely. Then, turn on the cold water supply to the tank and let the cold water run through it until it comes out clear. Keep flushing until you see no more sediment coming out of the tank.
  • Annually test the temperature-pressure relief valve by quickly discharging it two or three times. Following the testing, keep an eye out for small leaks from the valve.
  • Check the anode rod once every five years or so. Whether you have an electric water heater or a gas water heater, it will have an anode rod. First, shut off the gas or power to the water heater, then close the shutoff valve, open a hot water tap, open the pressure release valve, and drain a few gallons of water from the tank. If you see flakes of rust in the water, it’s time for a new water heater (orange water is not necessarily a bad sign). If the rod looks corroded, or if your tank is at least five years old and you’ve never checked the rod before, you’ll need to replace it.
  • Always maintain 2 feet of clearance around the appliance unless the manual specifically states otherwise.
  • Insulate older units with a fiberglass jacket to improve efficiency IF not already insulted (newer models). You can also insulate the hot and cold water pipes.
  • When leaving town, adjust the thermostat on gas heaters to “vacation” setting, which maintains the pilot light without heating the water.

Water heater maintenance may not be fun, but it will drastically improve the quality of life for your water heater and can help you save in the long run. Schedule an appointment with Dan’s Plumbing today to ensure the efficiency of your water heater and entire plumbing system.