Water Heater Maintenance Tips

Routine maintenance will help your water heater last longer and work better. Here are step-by-step instructions to drain and flush your water heater tank, visually inspect your system components, test your T&P valve, and inspect and clean your air filter.

Draining and Flushing the Water Heater

Tap water contains minerals that can form sediment in the bottom of the tank. The amount of sediment formed depends on the hardness of your tap water, the temperature settings, and other variables. We recommend draining and flushing the water heater after the first six months of operation to determine the amount of sediment build up. If there is little sediment, drain and flush the tank annually. If there is a lot of sediment, drain and flush the tank more often. Draining sediment extends the life of the water heater.

Water heaterTo Drain and Flush the Tank:

1. Turn the gas control knob on the gas control valve to the OFF position.

2. Turn the manual gas valve for the water heater’s supply line OFF.

3. Open a hot water faucet and let the hot water run until it is cool (This may take 10 minutes or longer).

WARNING! Be sure the water runs cool before draining the tank to reduce the risk of scalding.

4. Connect a garden hose to the drain valve and place the other end of the hose in a drain, outside, or in buckets. Note that sediment in the bottom of the tank may clog the valve and prevent it from draining.

5. Turn the cold water supply valve OFF.

6. Open the drain valve on the water heater.

7. Also open a hot water faucet to help the water in the tank drain faster.

8. Remove and inspect the anode rod and replace if depleted. The anode rod requires a 1-1/16” socket.

Anode Rod. The anode rod is a sacrificial metal rod that helps avoid corrosion and premature failure (leaks) in the tank. Inspect the anode rod after the first six months of operation when you drain and flush the tank. Replace the anode rod if it is substantially worn out or depleted. Thereafter, inspect the anode rod annually or more frequently if needed. If you use a water softener, your anode rod will deplete faster than normal, so inspect the anode rod more frequently, replacing the anode rod if it is depleted. 

9. If a large amount of sediment was present when the tank was drained, flush the tank by opening the cold water supply valve and letting the water run until no more sediment drains from the tank. Close the drain valve when you are done.

10. Refill the tank by opening the cold water supply valve. Make sure a hot water faucet is open and the drain valve is closed. Allow a hot water faucet to run full for at least three minutes to make sure the tank has all the air removed and is completely full of water. Once you are certain the tank is completely full of water, close the hot water faucet.

11. Relight the pilot and adjust the gas control knob to the desired temperature. It may take an hour or more for the tank of cold water to heat up.

Visual Inspection

On an annual basis, visually inspect the venting and air supply system, piping systems, main burner, pilot burner, and the air filter.

Check the water heater for the following:

  • Obstructions, damage, or deterioration in the venting system. Make sure the ventilation and combustion air supplies are not obstructed. Check the air filter for dust or other debris and clean if needed.
  • Build-up of soot and carbon on the main burner and pilot burner. The burner may be cleaned with soap and hot water.
  • Inspect the burner flames through the viewport and compare them to the drawing below. A properly operating burner should produce a soft blue flame. Blue tips with yellow inner cones are satisfactory. The tips of the flame may have a slight yellow tint. The flame should not be all yellow or have a sharp blue-orange color. Contaminated air may cause an orange colored flame.
  • Leaking or damaged water and gas piping.
  • Remove any flammable, corrosive or combustible materials near the water heater.

T&P Relief Valve Maintenance

Read and follow the operating and annual maintenance instructions provided by the manufacturer of the T&P Relief Valve (yellow label attached to T&P Relief Valve). Minerals in the water can form deposits that cause the valve to stock or create blocked passages, making the T&P Relief Valve inoperative.

Follow these guidelines:

  • At least annually, operate the T&P Relief Valve manually to ensure the waterways are clear and the valve mechanism moves freely. Before operating the valve manually, check that it will discharge in a place for secure disposal.
  • WARNING! Hot water will be released. Before operating the T&P relief valve manually, check that it will discharge in a safe place. If water does not flow freely from the end of the discharge pipe, turn the gas control knob to the OFF position and determine the cause.
  • At least every five years, inspect the T&P Relief Valve and discharge pipe. Damage caused by corrosive water conditions, mineral deposits, or other problems can only be determined when you remove and inspect the valve and its components.

A dripping T&P Relief Valve is usually caused by the home’s water pressure being too high or the lack of a Thermal Expansion Tank. A T&P relief valve that has been allowed to drip for an appreciable period of time should be inspected for mineral buildup. See T&P relief valve tag for more information.

Inspect and Clean the Air Filter

An air filter should be installed around the base of the water heater. At least annually inspect the air filter and check for a build-up of dust or debris. Vacuum the filter to remove any dust or debris. If an oily residue is present on the filter, wash it in soap and water, then dry the filter.

Performing these simple maintenance will ensure proper performance and longevity of your water heater.

Are you a homeowner or own a commercial property? Check out mybryantdealer.com/ to find a Bryant dealer near you!