A water heater typically lasts between 8 and 12 years, but only if it is maintained properly. A simple three-step annual maintenance plan will extend the life of the water heater.
If you're just going through routine servicing, there's no need to call a professional to complete the job for you. With a screwdriver and a bucket, a homeowner can usually complete servicing the water heater on their own. Before you start, turn off the power (for electric water heaters) or the gas supply (for gas heaters) for safety:
Prevent rust and corrosion by removing sediment from the bottom of the tank, a task that also improves the energy efficiency of the unit. Although a complete flush of the water heater tank is best, it requires shutting down the water heater. A mini-flush works well, takes a fraction of the time, and can be done while the water heater is running:
Test the T&P Valve
The temperature and pressure (T&P) relief valve is a critical safety feature of your water heater. It senses dangerous pressure buildup or excessively high temperature inside the water heater tank and automatically opens to relieve the pressure. Without an operational T&P valve, a water heater is at risk of explosion. Therefore, water heater manufacturers recommend testing the T&P valve once per year.
The T&P valve might be located at the top of the heater tank or in the side wall, and it has a discharge tube that extends down toward the base of the tank. To test the valve:
Dial Down the Temperature
Water heaters are typically installed at a preset temperature of 130 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. However, the Department of Energy recommends a setting of 120 F for most households, estimating that this can reduce energy costs for water heating by more than 5 percent. Lower temperatures also reduce the risk of scalding and slow the accumulation of mineral deposits in your water heater tank.
To lower the water temperature on a gas water heater, turn the temperature dial on the heater's gas valve to 120 F.
To lower the water temperature on an electric water heater, you might need to remove a small metal panel covering the thermostat:
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