Maintaining Your Water Heater TextPicture

Water Heater Flushing 

To keep your water heater operating smoothly, it’s a good idea to flush it every six months.

Your water heater heats and stores that heated water, so calcium deposits and other gunk can collect in the bottom of it. You don’t want that to mix with the water you use to cook and bathe. You could pay to have a plumber flush your water heater regularly, or you could follow the below steps to flush the heater yourself. Keep in mind, some water heaters may have undiscovered issues such as too much gunk build up, in which case you will probably want to reach out to a plumber anyway.

To flush the water heater:

1 | Turn off the electricity to the water heater before you begin.

Rosie on the House Water Heater Flush

You’ll find a circuit breaker that controls just the water heater in your home’s main breaker box. If your water heater is gas fired, there will be a small in-line gas valve close to the tank so just turn that valve off. 

2 | Find the hose bibb

Look on the bottom of the water heater for a hose bibb with an on/off valve, like the one you attach your outdoor garden hose to.

3 | Connect a garden hose

Connect a garden hose to the water heater’s hose bibb and place the other end of the hose in your laundry sink, through a window, or out the garage door, so the water will not land on the floor inside your home. Make sure it does not drain into a landscape or grass area as the hot water may damage your plants.

4 | Turn on the valve

Turn the valve to allow water to flow from the tank through the hose you just attached.

5 | Caution! Hot water

At this point, be careful, because the water that will be draining through the garden hose will be hot! Water will start to drain out of the water heater, along with the gunk from the bottom. When it starts to run clear, it’s finished. It will take 10 to 15 minutes.

6 | Water should flow freely 

If the water doesn’t flow out freely, it could mean you have a huge build-up on the bottom of the tank. In that case, you should call a plumber.

7 | Bring it back to working order

Turn the drain valve off, disconnect the hose, and turn the electricity to the water heater back on. For gas fired units, turn the in-line gas valve back on and following the instructions on your heater, relight the pilot light. Make sure that the water heater is completely full of water before you turn the electricity or gas back on.

Flushing your water heater not only makes the appliance run more efficiently and ensures your family is using clean water, it saves energy. In some water heaters, a quarter of the tank can fill with deposits. The higher they build up, the less efficiently the heater works, and the less hot water you have to save.

Solar water heater care

If you have a solar water heater in addition to maintaining a traditional water heater you need to take the following additional steps.

rosie on the House Solar Water Heater with tree

1 | Keep it in the sun.

As trees in your yard grow taller, they can cast shadows over your collectors; so can the addition your neighbor puts on the house next door. A shady spot is no place for a device that’s trying to capture sunrays. Check for shading at least once a year. Check it at three points during the day: mid-morning, high noon and late afternoon.

2 | Dust it off.

Arizona is dry and dusty, so your collector might be collecting as much dust as sun. Periodically clean yours so the sun can easily penetrate its surface.

3 | Seal it tight.

Regularly inspect your collector for cracks, discoloration (if the “glazing” is yellowing, you might need to replace it) and worn seals.

4 | Clean out the mineral buildup. 

Arizona's hard water can be tough on a solar water heater. The minerals in the water can cause a buildup of limescale in the system's solar collector, distribution pipes and heat exchanger that can hurt your system's performance and even cause it to fail.  You can circulate a mild solution of vinegar and water through the collector every few years.  But your best bet is to invest in a mechanical water softener, which will help prevent limescale buildup on all of your home's appliances, pipes and faucets.

Learn More About Solar Water Heaters

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