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.