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How to maintain your water heater

By Paul F. P. Pogue, Ask Angi
Published: March 2, 2024, 6:01am

Water heaters provide an important service to your home, and when they break, they tend to cause big problems, such as basement flooding — not to mention the inconvenience of being without hot water. Regular maintenance is essential to catch problems early and prevent a potentially disastrous flood, not to mention adding years to your heater’s service life.

Maintaining and ensuring the proper functioning of a water heater is crucial for several reasons. It’s not just about comfort but also about safety and energy efficiency.

Adjusting the thermostat, testing it periodically and replacing the unit when necessary all contribute to a safe and efficient home. Draining and flushing once per year protects your tank and improves flow and efficiency.

Signs indicating the need for attention to your water heater include slow or no water heating, rust-colored water, strange noises, inconsistent temperature and age (usually more than 10 years). Regular testing, particularly of the thermostat, can also preemptively signal issues.

Questions to ask

Questions for a professional could cover their experience, certifications, warranties on their work, the estimated time for the project and specifics about the replacement or repair process. Ensure they’re familiar with your type of water heater; heaters come from various manufacturers in different tank and tankless configurations, and not every water heater pro is familiar with every form.

Hire a pro or DIY

A licensed plumber or a specialized water heater technician is the ideal professional to handle water heater-related tasks. Licensing requirements vary by location, but certifications and insurance are crucial. Costs for water heater repair, replacement or installation can vary significantly based on the issue, the type and size of the unit, labor costs and any additional materials needed.

Investing in a high-quality unit can save on long-term energy costs. A professional hired for water heater issues may diagnose the problem, repair or replace components, or install an entirely new unit. They’ll ensure proper connections, safety measures and functionality.

Draining and flushing the water heater once a year plays a vital role in keeping it in good shape, by removing sediment buildup.

Testing the thermostat and checking for signs of trouble should be done periodically, at least once a year. Maintenance, repairs or replacement depend on the specific issue or the unit’s age and condition. You should flush/drain your water heater annually. A drain and flush removes sediment buildup and improves efficiency.

It’s possible to DIY this task, though it’s going to take you the better part of a day. A pro can do the work quickly and efficiently at a cost between $75 and $200.

For a more detailed guide on flushes, check out www.angi.com/articles/how-often-should-i-flush-my-water-heater.htm.