Water Heater Maintenance Tips | Boston & Cambridge Plumbing

February 7, 2017

tank water heater controls

Regular maintenance will help extend the lifetime of your water heater. An average water heater lasts for about a decade or more. You will be surprised how some basic maintenance pays off.

1. Clean Your Tank Regularly

Drain your water heater regularly to avoid sediments building up.

How can the sediment buildup affect your water heater:

  • Drips and clogs
  • Slows down heat transfer and overheats the tank bottom
  • Overheating can weaken the steel and damage the glass lining
  • Corrodes the tank and eventually causes leaks

That is why it’s so important to drain the tank about twice a year. This is relatively easy to do. Here are the steps:

How to Drain and Flush Your Water Heater Tank

Tools you’ll need:

  • Five gallon bucket
  • Hose
  • Channel lock


  1. Turn gas to “pilot” setting. Or the red knob.
  2. Find the shut off valve at the top of the water heater. It should be located near the water heater on the cold water line. Shut it off.
  3. Open the hot water side on your faucet to allow air into the water heater.
  4. Find the drain valve on the bottom – connect the hose to the drain valve. Use channel lock to secure it.
  5. Bring hose outside and stick it in a big bucket.
  6. Open drain valve by using a screwdriver. You’ll hear some movement.
  7. If you have an older style pressure relief valve, you can pop the relief valve and let the air pressure in.
  8. Once finished, put the lever down and tap it few times with a tool to ensure.
  9. Let the tank drain completely in the bucket. This will take anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes.
  10. Open the main valve of the water heater, let it cycle through. Let it run for five minutes.
  11. Close the drain valve. Disconnect hose with the channel lock. Check the connection multiple times.
  12. Turn the water heater shut off valve back on.
  13. Turn all your plumbing fixtures on the hot water side to blow any air out.
  14. Turn on the flame – turn from middle position to the left. You’ll hear the fire go on. If you have an electric water heater, plug it in.

2. Check the Sacrificial Anode Rod

Your water heater’s sacrificial anode rod releases ions that prevent the tank from rusting. It runs down the middle of the tank to catch mineral buildup to prevent corrosion.

After your water heater is about three years old, start checking the rod once a year to ensure the health of your water heater. If the rod has been depleted, the inside of the water tank will begin to rust, then leak. You can use a wrench to loosen the rods from the top of the tank to check them.

3. Stay Proactive

There are a few components to keep in mind as the years go on:

  • On gas water heaters, make sure the thermal coupling gets replaced every now and then.
  • Thermal coupling keeps the pilot light lit.
  • The gas valve, which heats the tank, may need to be replaced as well.
  • On electric water heaters, you may be required to change the element, which heats the entire tank.

4. Check for Leaks

Finally, once your tank is refilled, do a quick visual inspection for any signs of a leak or unexplained water. Check your drip pan first and foremost for any water puddles that might appear. Also, look near your hose valves, emergency pressure release valves, and water entrances and exits for signs of water seeping out. Finally, also look at the exterior shell of your water heater tank. If you see any unexplained water, don’t hesitate to call a plumber right away—if your water heater is leaking, you should consider replacing it right away as leaking tanks not only waste water but risk damaging your home. Leaks tend to grow quickly, and they can even get out of hand before you realize it.

If you need assistance with a water heater issue, Winters Home Services is here to help! Call us at 617-221-5899 to schedule an appointment today.