Water Heaters – Its Basics, Preventive Maintenance and Safety

Water Heaters – Its Basics, Preventive Maintenance and Safety
February 16, 2012 Lorelie

A water heater may seem to look like it is a pretty simple equipment, but that does not mean that it cannot develop problems along the line.  Understanding how the mechanism works, especially on knowing exactly what to do when something goes wrong, can help you prevent serious hot water heater issues.

It may seem a bit funny and weird, but many people tend to forget about their water heaters.  Typically tucked away well out of sight in a storage closet or in the garage corner, water heaters normally sit noiselessly and perform their jobs without a lot of ruckus.   However, forgetting about them completely can prove to be a huge mistake.

Unlike some equipments or appliances at home, when a water heater suddenly does not work properly when you use it, it does not always just stop working.  In some situations, you could find yourself standing in about 40 gallons or more of scalding hot water!  Worse scenarios may include the risk of fires, explosions, or the release of deadly carbon monoxide gas into your home. With all those potential problems, it seems like having a good old-fashioned cold shower sounds pretty good right about now.

Do not worry too much about the dilemmas previously mentioned above.  This is just to keep you aware about the importance of keeping an eye on your water heater.  An annual inspection, along with some simple, regular maintenance, is usually all you need to do to keep your water heater doing great.  Knowing some water heater basics would let you understand more about them.

Water Heaters – Its Basics

Water heaters are pretty simple equipments at home, and they have changed very little in the past 50 years.  Due to the advancements of technology, water heaters have been refined and are made extremely better than they used to be, with higher efficiency, longer life spans, and the addition of safety features that minimize the risk of physical injury and property damage.

Every water heater is designed to convert energy to heat, and then transfer that heat to the water.  They are then connected to a cold water supply pipe and have at least a single pipe for outgoing hot water that directs the heated water to faucets and other appliances throughout the entire house.

Even if there is a wide variety of water heaters available in the market such as electric, tankless, propane and even solar-powered model units, the most commonly used in the United States is a holding tank that is fueled by natural gas.

 

Water Heaters – Preventive Maintenance and Safety

Below are some basic ways on how to properly maintain your water heater.

First, check its overall physical condition.  Water heaters are built to have lots of rust protection internally, but they have very little rust protection externally, so it is wise to watch out for leaks.  Also, check for flaking paint, staining, or corrosion on the surface of the tank.  Both external and internal rust can surely result into your tank failing.  Keep in mind that the exterior shell may look okay on the outside, while all along it is already consumed with rust on the inside.  However, if you see and confirm that nothing looks out of the plain ordinary, then move on to the regular maintenance duties.

The two chief steps to properly maintaining your water heater are: periodically draining the tank to remove sediments; and testing the temperature and pressure release valve (T&P) to make sure that it is working appropriately.

Every time the water heater is turned on, sediments begin to form.  The sediments are actually made up of calcium carbonate, a mineral present in water, which is precipitated out through heating.  It typically settles to the bottom of your tank, and therefore can shorten the lifespan of your water heater; significantly reduce its efficiency; clog lines, valves, and the recirculating pump; and even provide a suitable breeding ground for anaerobic bacteria.  How many times you drain your tank depends a lot on the quality of water available at where you live.  Areas that have very hard water means that you need to frequently drain your tank in order to keep the sediment levels low.  The frequency may range anywhere from 6 months to 1 year.

The temperature and pressure release valve (T&P) is crucial for preventing explosions resulting from overpressure, because it automatically releases water at specific critical pressure levels and prevents the tank from exploding.  Be sure to test this valve from time to time to make sure that it opens and closes properly, so that it will not fail whenever you need it.

Last but not least, install a carbon monoxide alarm near your water heater.  Carbon monoxide is a gas that is odorless and colorless.  However, if your water heater does not seem to vent properly or starts to back draft, these fatal fumes can enter your home and endanger you and your family.

If everything is working properly, do inspect the water temperature with the use of a cooking thermometer in order to make sure that it is set to your family’s comfort level as well as to ensure everyone’s safety.  If the water is too hot for the human skin, it can really cause scalding which can lead to serious injuries.  On the contrary, some people tend to put their water temperature at a low setting so as to try to be economical.  However, keep in mind that if the water is not hot enough, it can potentially harbor bacteria.  A good intermediate setting for your water temperature is about 130 degrees.

If you have never performed any of the basic maintenance tasks stated above on your water heater before, it is a good idea to simply hire a technician to do it properly for you the first time, and then you can ask them to show you how to do it by yourself for the next time.  It is actually not very complicated to do these tasks, but you must be aware that there are potential risks involved.  The risks of performing maintenance tasks incorrectly are obviously great compared to a just shelling out a minimal service fee.  If you truly know and understand what the problem is with your water heater and you really know how to fix it, then by all means do so.  Otherwise, let the professionals do it.

Let’s face it, nothing really lasts forever.  Your water heater’s lifespan typically lasts anywhere from 6 to 12 years.  With regular and proper maintenance, you can actually beat those numbers, help ensure the safety of your family, and last but not least, help you save precious money in the process.

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