How about a little hot water check-up? Are you getting the temperatures you desire out of your water heater? Would you like to make it last longer and perhaps extend its useful life? How about just making it a little more energy efficient? I suspect that you would like all of these for your water heater. So let’s get started!
First, you should determine what type of heater you have. Is it gas or electric? Both are common, however, some homes are not piped for gas. Is it a standard, tank-type water heater or is it a “heat on demand” or “insta-hot” type unit? If it is a standard, tank-type water heater, it will have an adjustable thermostat. You should know a little something about the thermostat before you make any adjustments to it. It will have some markings on it from low to very hot. If you set it for very hot, you can accidently scald yourself with some older showers and most sinks, so you will want to be careful. Also, setting it on the highest heat setting may actually cause your energy costs to increase. The thermostat will keep water in the tank within a few degrees of the set point. All day, every day, even when you are not home using the hot water. So the higher the set point on your water heater thermostat, the more gas or electricity you will use keeping the water at the temperature that you enjoy when you are using it. Just a little something to remember. But by all means, if you are not getting hot enough water out of your heater, adjust your thermostat. One little bit of preventative maintenance that you should perform every 3 to 6 months, depending on the water quality where you live, is a flush of the water heater tank. To do this, you will first need to turn off the water heater. You don’t want to be trying to heat water that you are just going to run out onto the ground. If it is an electric water heater, then you can turn off the disconnect or the breaker. If it is gas, turn off the gas supply valve. Next, close the hot water valve to the house. This is usually located on top of the unit. You don’t want to flush cold water into the house, just drain the tank. Connect a hose to the fitting provided on the water heater. Run the hose outside or to a drain. Close the water supply valve to the water heater. You should drain the tank first, and then flush it with fresh water. Let’s discuss draining it first.
When you are draining the tank, watch the water coming out of the hose. If you are seeing small rock like particles, this is calcium and scale that have been building up in your water heater, decreasing the efficiency. When there is no more water coming out of the hose, turn off the valve and then turn on the supply water valve to the water heater. Let the tank fill for a few minutes, and then open the drain valve again. This will help to flush any remaining particulates out of the heater. When the water coming out of the hose runs clear, close the drain valve. Open the hot water supply valve to the house, and then turn the water heater back on. If is an electric heater, reset the breaker or disconnect. If it is gas, after you turn on the gas supply valve, you may need to light the pilot. Your water heater may have an electronic pilot, and ignite on its own, or it may have a pilot light that you will need to light. On the gas valve, there is usually a setting for pilot. Follow the instructions on the water heater for lighting it.
Draining and flushing your water heater on a regular basis will help to increase the efficiency and extend the useful life of your water heater. Another way to save energy with your water heater is to wrap it in a blanket. There are insulated blankets especially for water heater tanks that you can install that help to keep the water in the tank hot longer, so that your heater runs less, saving you energy and lowering your operating costs.
These are just a few fairly simple steps you can take to help extend the life of your water heater and save a little money on your water heating bill. We will discuss in a future column some of the other energy saving tips for your water heater and your house.