The onset of colder temperatures usually means a few home maintenance jobs are needed to get your house ready for the winter. Too often, though, people overlook their water heater, and that can lead to higher energy bills or even a breakdown in your water heating system.

It’s with that in mind that we have prepared a few easy tips to keep your water heater in top shape for the winter.

1 – The Pressure Relief Valve

Your hot water tank has a pressure relief valve that opens to release built-up pressure and to prevent a possible explosion. If minerals or salt have accumulated in the valve, it could limit its performance.

The valve is located at the top of the tank and is connected to a drainpipe. You can test the valve by raising and lowering the lever to allow hot water to flow out of the drainpipe.

If no water comes out, or if there’s only a trickle, it may be time to replace the valve. Conversely, if a leak occurs or water continues to flow after you have closed the valve, try operating the lever a few more times to dislodge any debris that may be caught in the valve.

If the valve is functioning properly, but water continues to drip or flow through the drainpipe, turn down the temperature on the water heater to reduce the pressure.

2 – Draining the Water Tank

Your water contains a certain amount of minerals, grit, and sand that can settle overtime at the bottom of your hot water tank and hamper its efficiency, reduce its capacity and clog the drain valve.
It’s a good idea to get rid of the accumulated deposits inside your water tank by flushing it annually.

  • Shut off the water supply at the top of the tank
  • Turn off the heater (shut off the breaker at the electrical panel for electric models or set the thermostat to the pilot setting on gas models)
  • Attach a garden hose to the drain valve near the bottom of the tank and place the other end in a floor drain or outside
  • Open a nearby hot water tap to reduce the pressure in the system
  • Open the drain valve until the tank empties completely

You can then close the drain valve, remove the hose and open the water supply valve. Once the tank is partially filled, you can turn the heater back on.

3- The Anode Rod

The anode rod inside your hot water tank defends against rust and corrosion by attracting the corrosive elements in water and allowing itself to corrode first. Once the rod has deteriorated, it no longer protects against rust.

To check your anode rod:

  • Drain the tank of several gallons, following the instructions in the ‘Draining the Water Tank’ section above
  • Loosen the hexagonal head of the anode rod found on the top of the water heater using an impact wrench and unscrew it by hand

If it looks corroded or rusted when you retrieve it from the tank, it’s time to replace it. You can find replacement anode rods at most home improvement stores or from your local plumbing professional.

By following these easy tips, your water heater will be ready to take on the cooler winter months and reliably deliver hot water throughout your home. The professionals at Zest Plumbing & Drain are always available to check and maintain the hot water tank in your home call today.

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