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How To Maintain Your Home’s Hot Water Heater

Everyone dreads a cold shower, which is why our plumbing team stresses the importance of basic water heater maintenance.

Do you ever wake up in the morning hoping for a long, cold shower? Neither do we. That’s why we encourage all our customers to prioritize water heater maintenance. However, many homeowners aren’t aware of when or how to service their water heaters. Allow us to fill you in on water heater basics…

What Does A Water Heater Do?

Let’s start at the very beginning. A water heater is an appliance responsible for creating hot water that you use throughout your home. There are many different types of water heaters, but mostly you’ll see two main types in residential homes: a tank water heater or tankless. While the terms are somewhat self-explanatory, let’s cover the differences between the two.

Tank Hot Water Heater

Perhaps the most common type of water heater is a tank water heater. This model holds hot water in a large, tank-style reservoir until you’re ready to use it.

Tank water heaters can use either gas or electricity and have three water transfer pipes that bring cold water in, move hot water out, and one that acts as a safety valve releasing water if the pressure or temperature reach unsafe limits.

Cold water pipes bring water into the bottom of the tank to be heated. As the water is warmed it rises to the top of the tank and is moved through the home via the hot water pipe. If hot water is not being used, it is kept in the tank and continuously heated.

One of the drawbacks of tank-style hot water heaters is that when hot water is used up (thanks to someone’s extra-long shower, perhaps), you may have to wait a bit until the hot water tank is filled again.

Tankless Hot Water Heater

Due to their increased efficiency, tankless hot water heaters are growing in demand. Tankless hot water heaters heat water on-demand, rather than running constantly to heat stored water.

When you turn the hot water faucet on, cold water flows through a heat exchanger in the tankless unit providing a constant supply of hot water. The tankless unit can be powered via gas or electricity.

While a tankless unit is more efficient and avoids delays if hot water is used for a long period of time, their output is somewhat reduced compared to tank-style heaters. For example, using the shower and dishwasher at the same time or several faucets at once can overwhelm a tankless heater.

What Kind Of Maintenance Does A Water Heater Need?

As with any major home appliance, maintenance is cheaper than repair and will go a long way to keeping your home comfortable and safe. There are some major benefits to performing regular service to your home’s water heater-no matter which type you have:

  1. Regular servicing is often required to maintain your system’s warranty.
  2. Improve the efficiency of your system by avoiding buildup or sediment inside the unit.
  3. Proactively address any repair needs before they turn into more costly issues.
  4. Reduce your water and energy costs by maintaining your water heater’s efficiency.
  5. Increase the longevity of your water heater, which can be up to 20 years or more, with regular servicing.

Unless you notice signs of disrepair or malfunction with your water heater, the most important item on your annual checklist should be to get your water heater flushed. Sediment and debris can build up inside your water heater causing it to become less efficient, lose pressure, or can cause corrosion.

How To Tell If My Water Heater Needs Maintenance

The signs your water heater needs service can vary depending on the type you have. However, there are some universal symptoms of a water heater that’s not working properly:

  • Your water heater makes noises like popping, banging or rumbling
  • Decreased or varying water temperatures
  • Low water pressure from hot faucets
  • Discolored hot water (yellow or rust-colored)
  • You run out of hot water quickly
  • Your water heater is leaking (call a plumber ASAP if this happens)
  • You notice higher energy bills
  • Your water smells off
  • Your water heater is older than 12 years

What If I Need To Replace My Water Heater

Generally, water heaters last a long time, however, like all home appliances, they need to be replaced eventually. If you notice any of the above signs and your water heater is older than 12 years, work with a trusted local plumber to help walk you through the replacement process.

At Legacy, we trust Lochnivar and Ruud brand products. Both brands provide a variety of residential systems like gas, electric, tankless, or hybrid that are trusted by our customers and our industry.

Did you know that you may qualify for a tax credit for replacing your water heater with a more efficient model? Yep, the Energy Efficient Home Improvement Tax Credit (part of the Biden Administration’s Inflation Reduction Act of 2022) pledges to provide homeowners up to $2,000 in tax credits for qualifying high-efficient water waters. Learn more about this tax incentive here.

What The Pros Say

Water heater maintenance doesn’t have to take much time out of your schedule and is a vital part of caring for your home and family. Having your water heater serviced by a professional annually can save you money, time, and the stress of an emergency repair down the road. Beyond that, it can help extend the life of your water heater.

If it’s been a while since you’ve had your water heater serviced, or if your unit is beyond 12 years old, get on our schedule today for a simple annual inspection.

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