Maintaining water heater will save money, prolong its life

The water heater is something most of us take for granted — until it suddenly stops working.

When our water heater fails, we desperately dial a plumber or rush off to get a new water heater. All this might be avoided with some regular preventive maintenance.

Water heater maintenance is easy to overlook because the tank just sits there and has no moving parts to worry about. But inside, two things are constantly attacking your water heater: sediment and rust.

Most steel water heater tanks are lined with glass to prevent rust. But the glass lining is never perfect, and the constant temperature fluctuations cause it to expand and contract, causing very small openings. When water eventually penetrates the lining, the tank begins to rust.

The good news is, there are ways to minimize the damage.

The first task is to drain the tank at least once a year. This will remove most of the sediment collecting at the bottom of the tank. Then go through the following steps:

• Shut off gas or electricity to the water heater.

• Attach a garden hose to the drain valve at the bottom of the tank.

• Close the incoming cold water valve at the top of the tank.

• Open the pressure relief valve on the tank to break the vacuum.

• Open the drain valve on the tank and drain it. When finished, reverse the process, remembering to not turn on the gas or electricity until the tank has refilled.

• Prior to refilling your water heater, you should open a hot water valve in your line to allow the air to escape as your water heater refills.

Maintaining your water heater will not only save money on your utility costs, but may also help to prevent waking up to a very wet disaster.

Joel Wensley is a licensed mechanical contractor in the state of Michigan, a WJBK-TV Fox2 Detroit news contributor and president of Mechanical Heating & Cooling in Dearborn Heights.