Water heaters are underappreciated appliances in our homes. You turn on a faucet and get instant hot water, but you might not consider the maintenance that will help improve the lifepspan of your water heater.

Water heaters that aren’t maintained can be the cause of significant water damage to your home. If the bottom of the unit rusts out or if supply lines develop leaks or even pinhole leaks, the damage caused by water can easily be in the tens of thousands of dollars.

Because sediment can build up in the tank, particularly if you have hard water with lots of minerals, the water heater tank should be drained. We recommend at least annually but in Rio Rancho’s hard water, you might even want to drain the tank twice a year. If you’re not comfortable with the steps below, or if your water heater is several years old and has never been drained, we do not recommend this as a do-it-yourself job. In that case, contact Affordable Service to have a plumbing technician do the job and inspect the unit.

If you are comfortable with this task, first turn off the incoming water supply to the water heater by shutting the valve at the top of the unit. Next, turn off the power to the water heater. If your tank is electric, turn off the breaker at the electrical panel. If it’s a gas water heater, you can turn the thermostat to the “pilot” setting or shut of the gas supply. Follow your owner’s manual instructions and again, only do this maintenance if you are comfortable with it.

After the water’s had time to cool off for several hours (you can shower or run the dishwasher to use some of the hot water already in the tank during this time), attach a long garden hose to the drain valve at the bottom of the unit. Make sure the other end of the hose is outside your home or garage. Next, open a hot water faucet in a room near the hot water heater; this will alleviate pressure and let the tank drain faster.

Now you can open the drain valve on the bottom of the hot water heater. Water will begin to flow. If the hot water heater is full of sediment, it may be dark in color as that sediment-laden water drains from the bottom of the tank. This is likely not water that you want to direct toward your plants or landscaping. As the clarity of the water improves, as long as it’s just lukewarm, you may be able to use some of the water on your landscaping.

Once the tank is empty, turn the water supply valve at the top back on and let it partially fill with new water, while keeping the bottom drain valve and hose attached. This will help flush any remaining sediment out. Once the water coming out is clear, turn off the water valve, remove the hose and close the bottom drain valve tightly. Turn the water supply back on to refill the tank while watching for any leaks from the drain valve or from under the water heater. Once the tank is full, restore the power to it. Turn on the faucets inside the house briefly to allow the air in the system to be purged, once you have the water back on. Remember to turn off the faucet that you’d opened originally while the water heater  drained.

If these steps seem like more than you want to tackle, give us a call at Affordable Service. Maintaining your water heater properly will help maintain its lifespan, even in our hard water area.