Home Repair & Maintenance Ideas and Tips

How to Maintain Your Water Heater to Save You Money in the Long Run

Making water heater maintenance a habit will help extend the life of this appliance and reduce costly repairs. Learn how easy it is to maintain with tips from plumbing professionals.

Adjusting water heater

Replacing a water heater can be expensive and inconvenient.  To help extend the life of this important household appliance and to help it run more efficiently and economically, routine maintenance is important.  Matt Lindsay of The Lindsay Company in Houston, Texas, says that to help your water heater operate better and last longer, it’s best to start maintenance activities within the first year of a unit’s operation. 

“We recommend checking the temperature and pressure relief valve every year and replacing it every three years,” Lindsay says.  “This is important because the valve is a key safety feature on the water heater.” 

Keeping the water heater set at the correct temperature is also important, according to Lindsay. “Most manufacturers recommend keeping the temperature set below 120 degrees Fahrenheit on water heaters,” he says. “This is for safety and efficiency, and it helps keep energy bills low, too.” 

Lindsay says that it’s also recommended to drain the water heater regularly to prevent sediment from forming inside the tank.  “A water heater tank should be drained every year,” he says. “A helpful way to remember is to drain it every year when you check the temperature and pressure relief valve.”

When sediment builds, it can accumulate as the water heats and form a ball inside the tank.  “Sometimes the sediment can collect to the size of a golf ball and will bang around inside and make noise,” Lindsay explains. “It can accumulate to a size that can’t be drained.”

Draining a tank doesn’t have to be done by a professional plumber and can be a DIY task, but Lindsay says that homeowners should carefully read their water heater’s manufacturer’s directions and follow the specific instructions for their unit.  While the directions for your unit may vary or the order of steps may be different, Lindsay says that these are some of the basic steps you might expect:

(Be sure to wear appropriate safety equipment, such as heavy gloves and goggles.)

  • Turn off the gas or electricity to the water heater.
  • Hook up a garden hose to the boiler drain, which is usually found on the bottom of the unit.
  • Open the boiler drain for about 10 minutes into a tub or directed outside the home.
  • Shut off the valve to the boiler drain.
  • Shut off the main cold water supply, which is usually found on the unit’s top right.
  • Open the relief valve, which can usually be located on the top third of the unit on the right.
  • Open the hot water tub faucet.
  • At this point, the water heater should start draining.
  • After the water has drained, open the cold water valve again.
  • Flush the unit one more time for about five minutes.
  • Close the boiler drain.
  • Fill up the water heater until no air is released from the tub or shower valve, whichever is open.

An American Home Shield® Home Warranty Systems Plan can help protect water heater components, as well as other key home systems, from covered malfunctions.  An AHS Home Warranty is a one-year service contract that covers the repair or replacement of many home systems and appliances that break down over time due to normal wear and tear.  

Matt Lindsay is a second generation master plumber with his family-owned business, The Lindsay Company in Houston, Texas, where he works with his father, Jim Lindsay.  Matt is a graduate of Texas State University and is sprinkler system certified.  The Lindsay Company has been an AHS Nationwide Network contractor for 28 years. 

DIY tips are for informational purposes only. Learn more.