The importance of a properly working water heater likely doesn’t cross your mind until you step into a cold shower one morning. In order for your water heater to continuously pump out hot water, it must be regularly inspected and maintained.
No matter the style of your unit, an annual inspection by your local professional plumber can help extend the life of the water heater.
Even if your water heater produces hot water, there may be signs it’s in need of repair or replacement. Unusual noises coming from the tank indicate something is wrong.
Water heater sounds
If you notice strange sounds emerging from your water heater, it’s likely malfunctioning in some way. Loud clanging, banging or clicking can indicate that the tank is filled with minerals and sediment and needs to be flushed. It’s proper water heater maintenance to have the tank flushed each year, but if you’ve never had it cleaned or just moved into a new home, it may be long overdue.
The popping or clicking noise is water boiling beneath the layers of sediment. In order for your unit to produce hot water and deliver it to your faucet, it must heat each layer of mineral buildup before it’s able to heat the water on top. You may notice that it takes a long time for water to get hot when you turn on the sink or shower.
Water heater damage
The noise coming from your water heater is harmless, but the buildup inside the tank can potentially cause a great deal of damage. Heavy sediment slows the gas burner’s ability to heat the water. The unit then begins to work overtime, causing the tank to overheat. The heat can damage the inner lining, weakening the tank and eventually resulting in a leak.
If you have an electric water heater, the sediment buildup will cover the electric heating element. The demand on the heating element can eventually cause it to burn out.
Flush water heater
In order to clear the water heater of sediment, you need to flush and drain the unit. Depending on where your water heater is located, the process could be complicated. A professional plumber can flush the entire system in just a couple hours.
The plumber will turn off the unit to stop more water from entering the tank. A garden hose is attached to the drain valve while the other end is placed where it’s safe for the water to drain, like a garage, basement drain or outside.
The plumber will open the pressure relief valve and a hot water spigot in your home to allow the tank to drain. The tank is flushed by closing the pressure relief valve and opening and closing the cold water supply lever several times. The tank is flushed of sediment when the draining water is clear.
The drain valve is closed and hose disconnected. You should wait about 30 to 60 minutes before using water in your home to allow the tank to refill. Schedule water heater maintenance once a year to keep your unit in good working order. You’ll likely spend less each month on your water bill and can extend the life of the water heater.