DIY Water Heater Maintenance Guide

Are you tired of cold showers or waiting ages for your water to heat up?

If so, you might need to pay more attention to your water heater.

Neglecting regular maintenance can not only cause inconvenience, but also lead to costly repairs or even a complete breakdown of your unit.

Plumber installing the faucet
photo: pixabay

In this article, we will explore the importance of water heater maintenance, how to perform it, and some tips to ensure your unit runs efficiently for years to come.

Plus, find out how many of the common issues can be prevented with proper upkeep. We’ll provide you with useful maintenance tips and a handy checklist to ensure you don’t miss a thing. You’ll also learn which components require regular cleaning and inspection and how often.

So, if you want to keep your showers hot and your energy bills low, keep reading!

Water Heater Maintenance: DIY Tips

Why Periodic Water Heater Maintenance Is Important

Regular water heater heater is essential to ensure its reliable performance and longevity. Neglecting to maintain the heating unit can lead to various problems, including increased operating costs, decreased efficiency, and a greater risk of hazardous carbon monoxide poisoning due to escaped flue gases.

In some installations, it is even recommended to perform frequent maintenance due to the operating conditions and unit abuse.

Whether you own a recently purchased and installed gas or electric water heater or an older model, regular care can help prevent common problems such:

Maintaining your water heater is a simple but crucial DIY task that doesn’t require special tools or skills. By doing so, you can keep your hot water heater running efficiently, ensuring safe and reliable operation for years to come.

However, if you are not comfortable working on a gas or electric heater, always contact a professional technician (here is how).

What is the cost of maintenance?

If you plan to perform maintenance yourself and have all the necessary tools and materials, it will only cost you your time. However, if you need to call a technician, the cost of labor will depend on the region and the specific work that needs to be done on the unit. Generally, more complex work will result in a higher cost.

Water Heater Maintenance Checklist

The article explains how to keep the water heater in good condition and what kind of problems can occur if it is not taken care of properly.

Below is a checklist of components that need to be regularly inspected and cleaned, following the manufacturer’s recommendations:

  • Venting system
  • Gas burner
  • Anode rod
  • TPR valve
  • Dip tube

It is recommended to refer to the manufacturer’s instructions as they contain all the necessary information for the proper installation, operation, and maintenance of gas and electric water heaters.

Required Tools

  1. Adjustable wrench
  2. Multi-meter
  3. Screwdrivers
  4. Shop-vac
  5. Sandpaper
  6. Brush
  7. Bucket
  8. Garden hose
  9. Teflon tape

Note: Make sure to turn off the power (gas and electricity), including the water supply.

Venting System – Why and How to Maintain It

Keeping your gas water heater in good shape is essential for safety and efficiency. Don’t let dangerous carbon monoxide gas leaks happen in your home. Make sure to inspect the venting system at least once a year to prevent potential hazards.

Here’s what you should look for during your regular maintenance:

  • Are venting pipes properly connected to prevent gas escape?
  • Are there any obstructions that might affect proper venting of the flue gases and air draw for gas combustion?
  • Are proper clearances maintained from combustible materials and for adequate venting?
  • Are there any damaged, sooted, or deteriorated flue pipes that could cause leakage of combustion products and improper venting?
  • Are there any rusted flakes at the top of the heater?
  • Are there any corrosive chemicals like waxes, bleach, spray can propellants, cleaning solvents, or swimming pool chemicals located in the same room as the water heater? Remember, chemical corrosion of the venting system can be very dangerous.

Don’t risk your safety and comfort. Make sure to clean, repair, or replace the venting system before resuming the operation of your gas water heater. Keep your home safe and enjoy reliable hot water all year round!

Gas Pilot Burner – How to Maintain It Properly

To keep your water heater running smoothly, it’s vital to perform preventive maintenance tasks like visually inspecting the main burner and pilot burner at least once a year. Additionally, it’s crucial to regularly check and clean the thermocouple, which is an essential part of the assembly.

Gas Burner – What to Check

photo: pixabay

To ensure the proper operation of your gas burner, it is essential to conduct regular upkeep. This includes:

  • Check for obstructions at the bottom of the water heater and around the air intake opening.
  • If your model has an air intake screen, clean it of any accumulated lint, dust, or oil.
  • Remove any dirt and foreign material from the orifices and related parts.
  • Use a wire brush to clean the combustion chamber and remove any scale deposits and debris.
  • Make sure that no flammable products like gasoline, adhesives, or solvents are present in the same room.
  • Check for sooting, which can impair normal combustion and cause issues such as a yellow flame or pilot outage.
  • If the gas burner needs cleaning, turn the gas control knob to the “OFF” position and remove it from the combustion chamber.

It’s crucial to ensure that the gas burner receives sufficient airflow for proper combustion. Any irregularities can result in an unstable flame, lower efficiency, element damage, and carbon monoxide leaks.

Regular cleaning and observation of the gas burner operation can help prevent these issues. Aim to clean the gas burner once a year for optimal performance.

How to Maintain an Anode Rod

Don’t forget that the anode rod, also known as a sacrificial anode, will eventually be depleted over time. If your water heater has multiple anode rods, you’ll need to inspect each one. These rods are located on the top of the heater and are submerged in the water.

Most manufacturers recommend that you inspect your anode rods at least once a year, but the frequency of inspection can vary depending on water quality, such as water hardness and the use of water softeners.

During regular water heater maintenance, keep an eye out for signs that it’s time to replace the anode rod. If you notice that the steel core is exposed more than 6 inches from the bottom or top, if the middle of the rod is exposed, or if the diameter is less than half its original size, it’s time to replace the anode rod.

TPR Valve Maintenance

TPR valve (photo:

It is necessary to schedule annual maintenance for the temperature and pressure relief valve (TPR) to ensure safe and efficient water heater operation. The valve should be checked for free operation and any lime encrustation. If water is leaking, it is necessary to replace the TPR valve.

To check the valve, lift the lever gently and release it. It should return to its normal closed position. If it fails to do so, lift the TPR valve lever several times until it seats properly without any leaks. Keep in mind that the water released by the valve is extremely hot, so use a bucket to catch it.

If you have a closed water supply system, periodic discharges from the TPR valve due to thermal expansion can occur. Proper action must be taken in such cases.

Note that the TPR valve is a crucial safety device that protects against extremely high pressure that can deform, rupture, or even cause an explosion in the tank. Therefore, it is essential to replace the valve if it fails to function properly.

Check the Dip Tube

Most standard and economy-value water heaters come with low-quality dip tubes. The purpose of this element is to direct cold water into the storage tank and reduce sediment build-up if an advanced type is not installed.

It is recommended to replace the straight dip tube with a curved or jet port type, as the turbulent water flow helps swirl sediments around and out during flushing. A good choice is a cross-linked polyethylene dip tube.

Depending on local water quality, low-quality tubes can break and crumble into small pieces, which can clog water filters and other components. This can also affect normal heating operation, efficiency, and performance.

Draining as Regular Maintenance to Prevent the Sediment Build-Up

Proper care not only ensures safe operation but can also save energy and reduce energy bills. With the increasing fuel costs and hot water consumption, deliming has become a modern maintenance necessity. The more you heat, the more lime deposits build up.

Lime scale can prevent normal heat transfer, decrease efficiency, and affect performance. A recommendation is to remove it by adding chemicals or a delimer solution.

The water heater tank should also be drained and flushed out once a year. This process removes sediment buildup that decreases performance and efficiency. Drain a few quarts of water from the tank, as suggested by the manufacturer, to prolong the life of the water heater. The drain valve is located at the bottom of the unit.

Lastly, check the water connections for leaks and water pressure. Install a pressure-reducing valve (PRV) if the water pressure is higher than the recommended working pressure of around 50 psi.

Winter Maintenance

During the winter months, it is recommended to check the temperature settings on the gas control valve of your water heater. Most gas water heaters have a thermostat set between 100°F and 140°F. If you have just purchased a new unit, it will likely be factory set between 120°F and 125°F, which is the appropriate temperature for hot water without risking scalding burns. Keep in mind that for every 10°F increase in temperature, there is a 3-5% increase in energy costs.

If the room where the water heater is located is cold and the pipes are exposed to lower temperatures, it is also recommended to insulate them. An insulation blanket can be used to cover the tank, while foam tubes can be used to insulate the pipes.

Safety Inspection

After any work has been performed on the water heater, such as repairs, replacements, maintenance, or simple cleaning, it is important to always check for leaks in the water, gas, or gas flue system and address them immediately.


Regular and proper care of a water heating system is crucial. Not only are water heaters expensive to repair, but regular maintenance is necessary to ensure reliable and safe operation, as well as the expected performance and efficiency. This ensures that hot water is always available when needed.

While the above article focused solely on gas-type water heaters, guides and tips for cleaning and maintaining electric units can be found in this guide.

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