It's a good idea to drain a water heater tank once a year. This removes sediment collecting in the tank, which comes in the form of naturally occurring minerals found in the water, along with sand and grit flushed from the municipal water supply. Over time, sediment degrades the heater's energy efficiency and performance and will clog valves and drains. Left uncleared, sediment leads to the appliance's premature failure.

Step 1: Cut Power and Water Supply

If you have an electric-powered water heater, shut off the power at the circuit breaker box. Most electric water heaters have their own breaker. Its important to note that electric heating elements will burn out if left active when the water level has dropped below them.

For a gas-powered water heater, locate the thermostat and turn the setting to "pilot."

Next, find the cold water supply line connected to the top of the tank and close the valve so water is no longer feeding into the tank.

Caution: the water in the tank will stay hot for several hours with the potential to cause injury even after you have shut off the power. Allow time for the water to cool.

Step 2: Connect Drainage Hose

Locate the drain valve near the bottom of the tank. Some models will have a cover over the valve that you need to remove.

Connect a standard garden hose to the valve and tighten.

If your water heater is above ground, like a first-floor utility closet or garage, run the garden hose outdoors to a place where the water can drain safely.

If the heater is in a basement, lead the hose to a floor drain if one exists. Otherwise, you will need to connect to a portable pump. Attach a second hose to the pump and run it outdoors to an ideal drainage area.

Step 3: Open the Hot Water Taps

Now you need to release the water pressure by opening the hot water faucets around your home. This alleviates the suction in the pipes —much like taking your finger off the end of a liquid filled straw.

This is a great time for someone to take a long, hot shower. It will speed up the drainage process.

Step 4: Open the Drain Valve

Return to the water heater to begin the drainage by opening the drain valve. If you have connected a pump, as mentioned above, it's time to activate it.

Allow the tank to empty. Don't forget that the water is still hot.

Step 5: Finishing the Job

Once the tank is empty, turn off the hot water faucets. Now you can go ahead with flushing or other maintenance work.

When you are finished, close the drain valve and remove the hose. Replace the cap if there was one. Open the cold water supply valve you closed earlier to refill the tank. Watch the drain valve to make sure it's not leaking and tighten it as needed.

When the tank is full, you can restore the electricity or gas power. Take caution by not turning on the heater before the tank is full, as this might damage the heating elements. Check the manufacturer's documentation for more information.

If you have any problems during this process, don't hesitate to contact a licensed plumbing and heating professional.

You might not give water heaters any thought when shopping for a new home. They don't carry the same appeal as a spa-inspired master bathroom or an outdoor kitchen that will be the envy of your friends at your next summer barbecue, but water heaters are crucial to your daily comforts. As you look through your next potential home, make sure the water heater is on your checklist. Here are some things to keep in mind to avoid expensive issues in the future.

Is it Rented or Owned?

Find out from the seller if the water heater is a rental or owned outright. If rented, ask for a copy of the contract and read it carefully. Renting a water heater is considerably more expensive than buying. For example, a $25-a-month rental for a ten-year contract would cost $3,000. Compare that to the usual price range of $800 to $1,000 to buy a tank heater.

Rent-to-own scenarios can include an expensive buy-out price that neither you nor the seller wants to take on. A contract buyout would be necessary if you plan for renovations that require replacement of the existing heater.

Is it the Right Size?

Have a licensed plumbing and heating professional inspect the heater as part of the home's inspection. This technician can determine if the tank size is adequate for the home, based on the number of hot water faucets, showers, appliances, and family members in your household. You might find that the heater is too small to support your family needs, which means running out of hot water during morning showers or while using the dishwasher or washing machine. On the other hand, you don't want a tank that is far too large because you will spend a lot on utilities to heat extra water.

How Old Is the Water Heater?

The typical lifespan of a tank water heater is ten years. Once a tank has reached this age, it can malfunction or begin leaking with no warning. A leaking tank is not repairable, and can cause significant damage to the home. Look out for signs of deterioration such as rust spots and water stains. If you're not sure of the age of your water heater, your plumber can look it up, based on the manufacturer's serial number. If the tank is near the end of its life, get ready to replace it.

Does it Pose a Risk?

Look at the area around the heater. It's common to place it in an inconspicuous area, like an adjoining garage or utility closet. But an out of sight and mind location can be a problem, because you won't know if it's leaking until it has already caused significant damage. Then you'll find the spike in your energy bill from heating all that water as it pours out of the tank. Exposed sub-flooring, wood framing, and sheet rock walls can all be at risk of permanent damage. If this is the case, discuss options with your plumber for relocating the water heater to a safer spot.

Including the water heater in home inspections will save you a lot of grief. Remember, this unassuming appliance is the reason you're not boiling water over a fire for your bath.

You want to buy a new water heater for your home. That's great! But now you have to decide if a gas or electric water heater is best for you. Here's what you should consider when deciding between gas or electric water heaters.

Initial Cost

Gas and electric water heaters are comparable in the initial price of the unit. Depending on how many gallons you want your water heater to hold, the energy output, and the warranty (if any comes with it), costs will vary between $200 and $1,000. However, the installation cost of a gas water heater may be a bit more expensive if you don't already have a gas line running from your supply to the location where you will store the tank. It can be costly to install this line, so factor the cost of installation into the price of the tank itself.

Supply of Power

If your house is already equipped with a gas line and you use other gas appliances (such as a gas stove or furnace), a gas water heater may be a good fit for you. However, if your home is not yet set up to receive gas, then you would need to install a gas line to your home, if gas is available in your neighborhood. This can be extremely costly and would likely add another utility bill to your monthly expenses. If your home is not already set up to use gas, it would be more cost effective for you to purchase an electric water heater for your home.

Operating Cost

If you already have a gas line running to your house and to the location where you want to store the water heater, then the two options are probably neck-and-neck. So now let's look at the operating cost. The cost of gas and electricity differs from city to city, but in most cases gas costs less than electricity. So if you'd like to save on your monthly bill and you have access to a gas line, a gas water heater may be a better option for you.

Efficiency

Lastly, it's important to consider efficiency when purchasing a new water heater. Though gas costs less than electricity, the amount of gas or electricity needed to heat your home's water may make a difference in the operating cost, longer term.

The energy efficiency of water heaters and other appliances are rated on a standard scale called the Energy Factor (EF) system. This allows consumers to compare appliances based on the same standards. A higher EF rating means that the appliance is more efficient. According to the EF system, an average electric water heater has an EF rating of between 0.75 and 0.95. and an average gas water heater has an EF rating of between 0.60 and 0.70.

The EF system shows us that electric water heaters are considerably more efficient than gas water heaters. So while electricity is more expensive than gas, an electric water heater will use much less power than a gas water heater.

Overall, gas and electric water heaters are pretty even, in terms of the initial cost of the unit. However, if you don't already have a gas line running to your water heater location and you purchase an electric water heater with a high EF rating, then an electric water heater will likely be a better fit for you long-term. If you already have a gas supply and gas is significantly cheaper than electricity in your region, then a gas water heater would be a smart purchase.

No water heater will last forever, but most units can have long, useful lives with a little help. Prolong the life of your water heater and get the most out of your investment by taking the following steps.

Try a Water Softener

Depending on your location, the water itself could shorten the lifespan of your water heater. If you live in an area where the water naturally has high levels of mineral deposits, over time the minerals will accumulate inside the tank. This phenomenon, known as scaling, can greatly shorten the lifespan of a water heater. That means it's in your best interest to eliminate the minerals before they have the chance to ruin the unit. Install a water softener to reduce scaling as well as decrease overall wear and tear on the plumbing.

Flush the Tank

Over time, sediment builds up inside water heater tanks and reduces their efficiency. If enough time passes, the sediment can turn into a permanent layer in the tank and cause the unit to overheat or break down completely. To prevent damage and extend the life of an older water heater, flush the tank at least once a year. Though many newer models don't require flushing, most older ones do. If you're concerned about flushing the water heater yourself, call a contractor for professional help.

Add Another Anode Rod

Water heaters can typically withstand serious temperature fluctuations and constant exposure to water. Corrosion inside the water tank, however, can signal the end of a water heater's life. Most units have an aluminum or magnesium anode rod that helps limit internal corrosion. Give your water heater a boost and add a second anode rod to increase its ability to resist corrosion.

Install an Expansion Tank

When your water heater produces hot water, the thermal energy causes the fluid to expand in size. If your water heater operates on a closed system, which means water cannot return back through the water main, the heated water has nowhere to go but out. That often translates to increases and inconsistencies in water pressure. Over the years, this causes undue wear and tear on the water heater and the plumbing system as a whole.

If your system endures frequent changes in water pressure, consider installing an expansion tank. This unit stores the extra hot water to keep the system running fluidly, and it can increase the overall life of your water heater by as much as double.

Test the Pressure Relief Valve

Water heaters rely on the pressure relief valve to release pressure automatically when necessary. Because high pressure can cause the unit to explode, having a functioning valve is critical to prolonging the life of your water heater.

Once a year, test the pressure relief valve, which you'll generally find on top or on the side of the unit. Replace the valve if it malfunctions or shows signs of a leak, since you'll want to be sure it works properly when you really need it.

Extending the life of your water heater goes far beyond just performing regular maintenance. Follow these steps to help your unit live for as long as possible.

Water heaters are designed for safe operation, but they require regular monitoring and maintenance to keep hazards at bay. To keep your water heater running as safely as possible, keep the following best practices in mind.

Do: Schedule Regular Hot Water Heater Maintenance

Like any other major home appliance, your water heater needs periodic checkups in order to achieve peak performance and avoid major safety issues. Since sediment buildup inside your water heater can cause equipment failure and potential safety concerns, experts recommend that you flush your water heater at least once a year.

While you might be able to take on this task yourself, it's often easier to schedule water heater service with a professional technician. In addition to flushing the unit, a technician can identify potential malfunctions and test the safety relief valve.

Don't: Exceed Recommended Settings

When you install a water heater in your home or business, you want it to provide hot water on demand. If the unit no longer meets your needs or doesn't perform adequately, resist the temptation to increase the unit's temperature settings. Not only will setting the hot water temperature above 120 degrees fail to produce more hot water for your home or business, but it can also increase the water temperature to a level that's unsafe for your family or customers. If your unit doesn't meet your expectations, call your local water heater technician for a reliable solution.

Do: Modify the Unit's Settings When Necessary

While you shouldn't set most water heaters above 120 degrees, that doesn't mean you can't adjust the unit's settings under certain circumstances. When you'll be away on vacation for several days or you're closing down the business for the season, dial back the temperature settings accordingly. Reduce the unit's temperature to its lowest setting in order to save on energy costs and lower the chances of safety concerns while you're out of town.

Don't: Use Area Around the Unit for Storage

Whether your water heater is tucked away in a closet or occupies prime real estate in the basement, it's important to keep the area around the unit clear. Instead of storing items around or on top of the water heater, clear a radius of about two feet. Keeping this area clear allows for unobstructed airflow and eliminates the chance of flammable items catching fire or becoming damaged. Take the time to dust and clean around the unit every month or so in order to keep dust and debris away from the water heater.

Do: Know How to Shut Off the Water Heater

Though prevention is the best defense against major safety concerns, you should always know how to shut off the water heater in case of an emergency. Each unit is different, so refer to your owner's manual or call your local water heater professionals for assistance. If your water heater relies on natural gas, consider having an automatic shut-off valve installed to ensure that leaks won't cause hazardous conditions in your home.

Don't let neglect or carelessness compromise your water heater. Follow these guidelines to ensure safe water heater operation and usage.

If you're in the market for a new water heater, make sure you understand all of your options. There are several types of water heaters out there, and making sure you get the right one for you and your family is important. When looking at the options, you'll come across oil fired water heaters. Find out if this is the right type of water heater for you.

What is an Oil Fired Water Heater?

Oil fired water heaters provide hot water for household water systems as well as for radiant heating. These are generally part of a central heating system in your home. There are three general styles of oil fired water heaters:

  • Direct fired—this system heats water using oil as the heat source. Direct fired systems are extremely efficient and are easy to use for large capacity systems. They have a low fuel and service cost compared to other system.
  • Indirect fired—using storage tanks, indirect fired water heaters use heating coils to heat the water. This type of system is usually used for central heating systems and hot water supply. This type of system isn't always the best option, because of its reliance on the central heating system, and can be cumbersome in the warmer months.
  • Tankless coil—if you have a boiler home heating system, you may want to consider a tankless coil system. This uses a coiled water pipe inside the boiler and heats the water for the home on an as-needed basis. A tankless coil system doesn't constantly warm the home, so is more beneficial in the warm months.

What are the Benefits of an Oil Fired Water Heater?

When you use an oil fired water heater, all the water in your home is heated with oil. The heater has an oil burner attached to it, but otherwise looks very similar to other water heater styles. Because of this, it's not going to take up much, if any, more room in your home than any other type of water heater.

One of the biggest benefits of using an oil fired water heater is that you're able to save a lot of money over the life of the water heater. While an oil fired water heater system may cost more for the initial installation, it's going to save you money on your utility bills in the long run. Depending on the type of water heater you choose, you may be able to heat your home and your water at the same time.

You don't have to worry nearly as much about how much water you use, since the water is heated as you use it. Because of this, you have nearly unlimited hot water, unlike many other types of systems.

Understanding the water heater system in your home allows you to make the right choices for upgrades, as well as maintenance and repairs. When you're considering a new water heater, check out the benefits of an oil fired water heater, to help you save money, increase your home's efficiency, and increase your hot water supply.

As a homeowner, you know that different systems within your home need to be replaced at intervals. One of the biggest systems you need to keep an eye on is your water heater. While water heaters are generally expected to last approximately ten years, this isn't always the case. Depending on a number of factors, your water heater may last 20 years or more, or you may find that it gives out after only a few years. It's good to have an approximate idea of how long your particular water heater will last.

Installation

One of the biggest factors that helps determine how long your water heater will last is how it was installed. Improper installation affects the lifespan significantly. It's crucial that your water heater is installed upright—if it is on its side, there is inadequate support. This leads to structural stress and will cause premature failure of the water heater system. Well-ventilated areas are the best for water heaters. While this helps with nitrous-oxide buildup and fire safety, it also extends the life of the water heater.

Usage

As you're considering how long your water heater will last, make sure you keep in mind how much you use it. The more hot water used throughout the home, the more the system has to work. Water heaters with less usage generally last longer than those with a huge output. Make sure you get a water heater that can stand up to the volume you plan to use.

Water Type

The type of water in your area affects your water heater. If the water is corrosive, it's going to significantly shorten the lifespan of your water heater system. One way to help determine the life of your water heater is to get your water tested for corrosive chemicals. Along with this, hard water is more damaging to water heaters. If you have hard water, you can help extend the life of your water heater by getting a water softener.

Proper Maintenance

Keeping your water heater maintained extends how long the system lasts. If you are purchasing a home with an older water heater, or if it's been a while since you last got maintenance, make sure to get someone over to service the system. A good flush and maintenance helps get rid of dirt, debris, and minerals from the system

System Type

There are many different types of water heaters, and the style of your water heater affects how long it lasts. For example, a glass lined water tank is coated to help resist corrosion. Since there is less corrosion in the system, it is likely to last longer than older systems without this protection. A tankless system tends to last longer than a traditional tank water heater, with life spans of up to 20 years or more.

When you're estimating the life expectancy of your water heater, consider consulting with a professional. They can help you understand how your system works, explain the general span of your system, and offer suggestions to keep it running as long as possible.

Did you know that your water heater builds up sedimentary deposits over time? It's true, and it's potentially dangerous. People who fail to flush their water heaters run the risk of permanently damaging them. In extreme situations, they're prone to explode. That's why it's imperative to learn how to clean your system. Here's a guide on how to flush a water heater.

Why You Should Do It

You can tell when your appliance has built up sediment deposits. It'll grow louder due to the water sloshing around these chips. You'll hear a loud rattling sound that signifies your water heater needs flushing. The other warning sign is that your water takes longer to heat. The sediments soak up the hot water, reducing the core temperature of a device designed to dispense warmth. That also adds to the cost of your utility bill. Performing the flush also extends the life of your water heater.

Before You Begin

You must take care of a few items before performing the actual flushing of the water heater. You'll need to buy some parts first. A new drain valve is the key to removing the dangerous sediments. You should find them in home improvement stores. You'll attach the valve to garden hose to perform the task.

Also, you'll want to take care of two common sense tasks. You'll need to shut out the electricity to your water heater to avoid electrocution. You'll also turn off the incoming water supply while your water heater is inactive. Otherwise, you'll have a mess and potential water damage to your floor. Finally, let your water heater rest long enough for it to cool. This is not a task to attempt while the heater is hot to the touch.

Flushing the Water Heater

The first step is to attach your water hose to the new drain valve. Then, you should turn on all the faucets and spigots in your home. The goal is to drain all the hot water out of the unit before performing the flush.

Now that the tank is empty, the goal is to get rid of all the sediment build-up in your appliance. You want to turn the water valve to begin the flushing process. Be gentle with it since the valve is easy to break. The water heater must drain completely before you can go ahead. Note that the flush could take some time. That's because the build-up slows the draining.

As the flush is completed, you should use a bucket to capture the last of the water. See if it still contains some sediment. If so, you'll want to repeat the process. The other way to test this is to add water back into your unit. Then, drain some of it into the bucket. If it's clear, you're done. If it's not, you still have an unclean water heater. In that case, flush it again.

Regular flushing helps maintain your water heater and makes an important difference in your utility bills and the safety of your home. Follow the steps above to remove the sediment that's causing problems with the proper operation of your water heater.

Are you in the market for a new tankless water heater? If so, you must make a choice. Do you want your appliance to sit inside or outside your home? It's an important question that you must answer before buying. Here's a guide on the differences between indoor and outdoor tankless water heaters.

Tankless Water Heater

By purchasing a tankless water heater, you're increasing your energy efficiency while reducing the space required to store your device. The energy savings occur because it only runs when your home requires hot water. You're reducing your hot water demand, which in turn lowers your monthly utility bills. Although most tankless units cost more than traditional hot water heaters, you'll save up to 34 percent in hot water usage. You're paying more for the appliance because it uses a high-powered burner to offer a ready supply of hot water on demand.

The operation of these devices is simple. They heat water only as you need it rather than functioning as a permanent hot water storage system. The flow rate of the tankless water heater will determine how much water you need. It'll pass through the burner, changing from cold to hot instantly.

The Facts About Indoor Water Heaters

Indoor water heaters are a sensible acquisition in regions with standard climates. You won't need to spend as much on these devices as outdoor ones. That's because indoor units don't have to withstand the elements the way that outdoor water heaters do.

What you must keep in mind about indoor water heaters is that they'll require space within your home. If you're adding a device to a home that doesn't currently have such an appliance, you'll have to choose a permanent home for it. People who live in tight quarters may lack the space to introduce such a large appliance into their homes.

In addition, you'll need to investigate whether there's room for the accompanying plumbing and electrical connections required to run the appliance. Finally, note that indoor tankless units need ventilation. Otherwise, they'll expel condensation that could cause leaks. So, indoor water heaters provide tremendous utility, but you have to plan carefully if you're going to add one to your home.

The Facts About Outdoor Water Heaters

Outdoor water heaters are easy to install because they require no venting, but that very quality makes them problematic in areas where temperatures drop below freezing. Although tankless heaters typically offer freeze protection, the exposed pipes can still become a problem in chilly weather if they are not insulated. For those who live in warmer climates, these appliances are rugged and durable. This longevity, however, means they'll cost more than other types of water heaters.

The benefits of outdoor water heaters are obvious. You can stick one of these appliances anywhere. As long as you have the plumbing and electricity to connect them to the proper spigots, they'll work well. Since they're outdoors, ventilation isn't an issue, either.

Beyond the price, the only true downside to the outdoor water heater is something beyond your control. Since they're outside, they're susceptible to vandalism. If you don't trust your neighbors, you'll want to add a security camera to keep an eye on your appliance.

Indoor and outdoor tankless water heaters are both great appliances. The one you should choose depends on where you live, how large your home is, and how much you can afford to spend on the device.

What do you do when you spot a puddle on the floor near your water heater? After determining it's not close enough to a window for rainwater to seep in and it's not dripping from an overhead pipe, there's one other option to consider – the water heater.

A leaking water heater is not something you can pretend you didn't notice and hope it goes away. Leaks tend not to fix themselves no matter what we're talking about. Just as a leaking swimming pool can harm your backyard, a water heater can cause all sorts of damage when left alone. Toxic mold and mildew would flourish as building materials making up the surrounding walls, floors, and subfloors deteriorate and rot.

Confirm It's Not Condensation

Gas-powered water heaters are known to produce condensation toward the top of the unit, especially when they are new. Look for water stains and signs of rust along the sides of the tank. A rusted tank needs to be replaced.

Condensation can form on the cold water pipes above the heater in humid weather, eventually creating puddles on the floor. Dry the floor and lay paper towel around the area in question, including the base of the tank. After a few hours have passed, you will see evidence collected on the paper towels telling you if condensation is the cause. By the same token, the wet paper towels will show you which side a heater leak is coming from.

Use Your Hands

Dry your hands thoroughly and feel around any connection points and valves along the water pipes above the heater. Sometimes a gate valve will leak from just beneath the handle. Tighten the packing nut below the handle to create a tighter seal. Check the fittings where the water inlet and outlet pipes enter the tank; sometimes water can seep out of these connections if not well sealed.

Next, feel around the temperature and pressure (T&P) relief valve located near the top of the tank, which should connect to a pipe leading to a drain. If you find a leak here, the T&P valve may need replacing.

Inspect the Electric Heating Element

First, shut off the circuit breaker for the water heater. Coming into contact with electricity and standing water is lethal.

Remove the access panels and plastic safety shield and look for visible water stains. If you don't seen anything, feel around the insulation for moisture. If you find wetness around the element, you can try tightening it or you may need to replace the rubber gasket that seals the element.

Check the Drain Valve

The drain valve is found on the side, near the bottom of the tank. Feel the inside of the spigot for moisture. If it's wet, the valve may be faulty and need replacement. For a temporary fix, you can screw on a garden hose cap or sprayer nozzle to seal the leak.

Leaks start small and they aren't always easy to find. However, you want to find the source early before a leak becomes an expensive problem. Once you have located the leak, contact your service professional to make the repair, knowing you've completed half the work.