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Water Heater Maintenance Made Easy

Fall is a wonderful time for West Linn property owners to address those annual maintenance items. Water Heaters are an often-neglected part of our home’s vital systems. The following tips will help extend the life of your water heater and performing this maintenance may help to identify current issues.
Clean the Air Filter
Less well known than other aspects of water heater maintenance are that most have an air filter than can and should be cleaned. This simple job can improve efficiency and protect your heater.
• Turn off the gas and pilot light.
• The filter is a simple fabric ring (pictured here) that encircles the bottom of the heater.
• It is often held in place with a simple metal hook; unhook it and remove the fabric.
• The fabric may be vacuumed, blown out with compressed air, or simply rinsed with water (dry before replacing).
• After cleaning, replace the ring and fasten with the hook.

Adjust the Temperature
Lowering the temperature will save energy and increase safety – particularly if there are young children in the household. Every 10 degrees decrease in water temperature will yield a 5% decrease in energy usage.
• Locate the temperature control panel on the side of the tank.
• Set the temperature dial at 120 degrees – this a popular setting that balances hot water needs with safety and energy consumption.

Check the Pressure Valve
All water heaters have a temperature and pressure relief valve. This is an important safety device which opens and releases pressure in the event the water tank over pressurizes. Without this pressure the tank could over pressurize and explode.

The relief valve can be tested with the following steps (always wear protective clothing and eyewear):
• Turn off the electricity or gas to the water heater.
• Close the cold-water inlet to the water heater.
• Place a bucket under the relief valve to catch water.
• Pull up on the lever on the valve. Air and/or water and vapor should move through the valve.
• If there is no sound or discharge you may need to replace the valve. While valve replacement is not overly difficult, you may wish to hire a professional simply to avoid any additional issues that may arise.

Flush the Tank
It is normal for sediment to build up in the water. This accumulation will both reduce the heater’s efficiency (increasing utility costs) and clog the home’s water lines. Periodically flushing the tank will help extend the life of the heater and avoid problems. This service can be done in conjunction with testing the relief valve.

The tank can be flushed by following these steps (again wearing protective clothing and eyewear):
• As with relief valve testing, turn off the electricity/gas to the heater and close the cold-water inlet.
• Locate the drain valve for the tank (on the bottom) and connect a normal garden hose to it.
• Run the garden hose to an area that will not be harmed by the hot water and sediment discharge.
• Open the pressure relief valve and then open the drain valve – be patient and allow the tank to drain completely.
• Close the drain valve, close the pressure relief valve and disconnect the hose.
• Open all the hot water spigots in the home and then turn on the cold-water inlet to the heater. This will flush the air from the tank and lines – you will probably see some water discoloration as any remaining sediment is flushed out.
• Close each spigot once water flows cleanly through it. You may now turn on the electricity/gas to the heater (and remember to re-light the pilot light).

Following these simple service guidelines will reward you with lower energy costs, extended water heater life, and lowered risks of severe failures. If you are uncomfortable performing them it is a simple and inexpensive service call to your local plumber.

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