Just about everyone can relate to this scenario: It’s only a few minutes into the morning shower and suddenly the water turns from refreshingly hot to teeth-chatteringly cold. Chances are the problem involves an appliance many people take for granted – the water heater.
Most people don’t realize how important the water heater is to everyday life until something goes wrong. And while the next step is to contact their local plumber to come out to inspect and/or replace the water heater, most people don’t realize a little preventive maintenance could have avoided this annoying and costly scenario.
Conducting maintenance tasks such as draining and cleaning the tank, changing the anode rod, replacing the heating element, testing the pressure relief valve, and understanding the dip tube and how it works and can be repaired. In addition, keeping the tank at reasonable water temperatures – between 120F to 130F – can save energy and prevent overheating.
Water heater tanks should be drained at least once a year to remove sediment collecting at the bottom of the tank. This would be an appropriate time to replace the anode rod. This step is often overlooked, but nonetheless important in terms of water heater maintenance. The anode rod is made of magnesium or aluminum and is suspended in the tank. It acts as a magnet to attract charged water molecules that might otherwise attack the steel tank. The anode rod should be checked and replaced each year when draining the tank. Rods typically last five to 10 years if they are unchecked and can be purchased at any plumbing shop.
Checking the heating element is also an integral part of maintenance, especially if the water heater has not been cleaned for years and seems to be inefficient. The heating element is a rod that screws into the side and most water heaters have two – one high and one low. The low element is the one that usually is corroded with calcium carbonate. The rod is connected to electrical wires, but is easy to change.
The pressure relief valve is located on the side of the tank near the top. It should be opened at least once a year to make sure it is in good working condition and does not become clogged with calcium carbonate.
The dip tube is not often mentioned, but it is an important part of the water heater. It is the plastic tube on the cold-water inlet that carries the incoming cold water to the bottom of the tube, where the heating process goes on. It’s important to note that six of the major water heater manufacturers used the same faulty dip tube in building their water heaters between 1993-97, so problems could occur if you own one of these. It’s estimated that over 16 million consumers nationwide will have a problem with this dip tube. A few minutes of hot water before it turns cold is a sign that the dip tube may be faulty.
Persons wanting more detailed information on how to perform regular water heater maintenance or those who would rather have a professional plumbing technician handle it can contact Mr. Dan’s today.