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Maintaining your How Water Heater

Conventional water heaters are a relatively simple appliances -- they heat water using electricity or a burner, and then they store that water for later use. As a result of this simplicity, some of the most common problems can become do-it-yourself projects. Alternatively, you hire an HVAC contractor or even your local gas or fuel oil company to solve problems. As with most appliances, proper maintenance can avoid most water heater problems.

No Hot Water

If you are not getting hot water and you have an electric unit, you may just need to reset or replace the thermostat. If you have a gas-powered unit, the gas line or pilot light may be to blame. You may need to clean the gas burner or have the thermocouple unit replaced. This is a job for a qualified HVAC Contractor -- don't try this yourself!

Leaky Water Heaters

Leaky water heaters are a major problem because even a small leak can soak into your particleboard sub flooring and carpets, causing decay and mold. An improperly installed water heater can also emit fire or dangerous toxic fumes that can be hazardous. The pipe connections, valves, and the area below the unit should be checked for leaks. The floor under the water heater can be protected from water damage if it's covered with water sealant. Turn off the heat source to the water heater while doing this to avoid a fire hazard.

Relief Valve Maintenance

Once a year, the temperature/pressure relief valve should be tested. If you don't have one, install one. When the valve handle is pushed up or pulled down, water should come out of the overflow pipe to show that the valve is okay.

Drain Faucet Maintenance

A bucket of water should be drained from the drain faucet at the bottom of the water tank regularly. This will clear sediments from the bottom of the tank, prevent corrosion, and maintain heating efficiency.

Annual Pipe Connection Maintenance

Each year, you should make sure the pipe connections on a gas or oil-fired heater are secure and free of rust or corrosion. Check the external insulation on the water heater on a quarterly basis to see if it's in position. It should not block the combustion air inlet or exhaust vent.

Tankless Water Heater Maintenance

The temperature gauge on the boiler of your tankless water heater should be checked once every six months and the temperature set correctly. The joints around your tankless hot water mounting plate must be inspected every year -- if there is corrosion or mineral deposit build-up, have your plumber check it.

When You Should Call in the Experts

If you smell gas near a gas water heater, shut off the pilot light, close the gas shutoff valve, and call your gas utility for help. If you have an electric water heater, don't work on it if there is a puddle on the floor near the heater. Shut off the circuit to the water heater and call your plumber or HVAC contractor.

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