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Your Winter Water Heater Maintenance Guide

Whether you’ve been shoveling snow or building a snowman with your kids, you want to be able to take a hot shower or bath when you come back in. But if you have a problem with your water heater, then that nice hot shower or bath might have to wait. Fortunately, with our holiday water heater maintenance guide, you can prevent issues that could get in the way of your comfort.

Five Steps for Maintaining Your Hot Water Heater

  1. Clear space around the appliance. If your water heater is located in a room you typically use for storage, make sure it’s free of clutter. It can easily happen that you don’t notice clutter building up and getting too close to the appliance. However, you should maintain at least two feet of clearance around it in order for it to operate safely and properly.
  2. Shut off the water supply and the power. In order to perform maintenance, you need to be safe. Turn off the power supply—the switch will be located close to the water heater—and shut off the water supply valve.
  3. Test the TPR valve. The TPR valve is the temperature-pressure relief valve. This valve opens to release vapor if the pressure inside the tank gets too high, so it needs to be working properly. Place a bucket below the pipe under the TPR and open the valve quickly two to three times. If the valve leaks, it will need to be replaced.
  4. Check the anode rod. The anode rod is housed inside the water tank. Its function is to attract minerals and other elements that could corrode the tank. Over time, the anode rod can either corrode or get coated with calcium. At this point, you’ll need to replace it. To check it, lift the anode rod out of the tank and visually inspect it. If it’s coated in sediment or if it’s less than half an inch in diameter, you should purchase a new one.
  5. Flush the tank. You need to flush the tank several times a year to prevent sediment from building up inside of it. To do this, attach a hose to the drain valve and let all of the water drain out of the tank into a bucket. This will remove most of the sediment. If the water is cloudy, briefly open the cold water supply valve to let more water into the tank. Stir the sediment, then drain the tank again. Repeat this process until the water coming out of the tank is clear.

Insulate the Tank and Pipes

If you live in an area where the winters are cold, there are other things you can do. You can save energy and protect your pipes from freezing by insulating your pipes and the water heater tank. Special insulation sleeves are also available at your local hardware store or online. You should know that modern models have built-in insulation. Always check the manufacturer’s manual before investing in any insulation materials for your hot water heater.