Maintenance Tip #1 Preparing the water heater Turn off the power if its an electric water heater. Turn off the water to the water heater by closing the valve on the cold water line. Its located on top of the water heater. The cold line is always to the right. Open a hot water tap inside the house.
Air pressure will come out of the tap. Open the drain valve located at the bottom of the water heater. It looks like a hose bibb. Let a gallon or more out of the water heater. Do not allow anyone to use hot water for the time you are working on the water heater.
Maintenance Tip # 2 Removing sediment by dissolving it You can dissolve sediment by using a descaler called Mag-Erad. It's made by A.O.
Smith who also builds water heaters. Use the instructions that come with this descaler, but ignore the part about leaving the gas water heater on. Turn the flame off by setting it to PILOT. The heat without water in the water heater can cause damage to the gas systems. You can also use lye to dissolve sediment.
Its very flammable and volatile. A plumber should use this chemical only. Maintenance Tip #3 Controlling sediment Sediment can be kept under control if you use softened water. Salt softened water only reduces sediment; it doesn't get rid of the problem and also causes another problem. Anode rods' life expectancy is reduced 50% to 65%. Sediment grows rapidly at 140 degrees.
Legionnaires' Disease can grow at temperatures of 115 degrees or less. To keep both of these problems at bay, its best to set your water heater at 130 degrees. Legionnaires' Disease is actually caused by inhaling water vapor rather than drinking infected water. Still, in hospitals the plumbing should be regularly filled with 170 degree water to kill all remaining bacteria. The only way to check what temperature the water actually is, is to fill a cup of hot water and put a meat thermometer in the cup. If you have a gas water heater, the dial on it can be adjusted until hot water that is 130 degrees is coming out of the tap.
Be sure to give the water heater a chance to recover between adjustments on the dial. An hour should do. Some gas water heaters can adjust the size of the flame produced. Look at the center of the control knob and see if a small screw-like button is there.
If so, this button can be used to adjust the flame size. If your having trouble getting enough hot water as it is, then leave this alone though. If you have a sediment problem in an electric water heater, have a low-watt density element installed.
Don't be fooled by its name. It's not as hot as a high-watt density element, however the surface area of the low-watt is double and heats just as well. The reduced heat slows the production of sediment.
If you have high water pressure over 50 psi, then have a plumber install a pressure reduced for your water heater. High pressure causes more sediment build-up. Maintenance Tip #4 Check water heater plumbing fittings Check any threaded connections on your water heater for possible leaks. Threaded connections are located on the top of the water heater for both the hot and cold lines running to and from the water heater. The T&P valve which is on to one side of the water heater, may become leaky.
It has a plastic pipe connecting it and has a loose metal switch which can be lifted to stand on end. The drain valve can leak. It is at the bottom of the water heater and often looks like a hose bib. The thermostat controls for both gas water heaters and electric water heaters can leak. The gas control has the words ON/OFF/PILOT written on it.
The electric control is behind one but usually two metal compartments on the front of the water heater. Maintenance Tip #5 Steel connections Rust can occur if steel touches copper or brass. The rust occurs on the steel only on not on the copper or brass. Copper and brass are noble to steel on the Periodic Table.
To control this problem on a water heater use a steel nipple with a plastic lining. This allows the water heater, which is steel to touch the steel nipple with no problem. The steel nipple with plastic lining can also touch any copper plumbing because the plastic prevents them from touching. Dielectric unions can also touch steel nipples since their function is to prevent rusting or corrosion. Maintenance Tip #6 Broken nipples If the nipple breaks when you remove it with a pipe wrench, grab a flat-end screwdriver and a hammer. Hit the circle opening with the screwdriver and hammer and bend in the ring.
Now use the screw driver to pry up the broken nipple. Use a hacksaw blade only to cut the opening slot to the threads if the screwdriver doesn't do the trick. Clean the threads with a pipe tap. Now wrap the new nipple with teflon tap on the threads and install it. Maintenance Tip #7 Electric heating elements To check the electric heating elements on an electric water heater, locate the two ports in the front of the water heater. Sometimes there's only one port, but nonetheless, you need to remove them.
Here you can see the heating elements are screwed or bolted into the water heater and kept water-tight by a rubber gasket. Remove the element, but only if you've drained the water heater and turned the power off first. Replace the gasket if the rubber has turned hard. Wrap the element with teflon tape if it has threads.
Put the tape on the threads and wrap it a couple of times. Hard scale can build-up directly on an electric element. This is rare but it can happen. Scale usually just sloughs off elements and falls to the bottom of the water heater. If enough scale (also known as sediment) falls to the bottom of the water heater, it could bury the lower element.
There are two types of heating elements, the high-watt density element and the low-watt density element. The high-watt sloughs sediment off more easily but the total amount of sediment is greater due to the higher temperatures. A low-watt creates lower overall sediment because it is not as hot, but it still heats up the water just as well because it has double the surface area. It tends to get flakes of scale directly on itself more easily though. In most instances, the low-watt density element will cause fewer problems.
Elements may be cleaned. Use a toothbrush and vinegar to gently clean the sediment off of them. If your anode rods have become heavily deteriorated, then this can affect your elements.
Corrosive actions between the copper on the sheath of the element and the steel of the water heater's tank can sprout slow leaks and destroy the elements. If your elements are burning out frequently after replacement, the anode could be to blame.
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