How to maintain a water heater: easy 12 steps and tips (2023)


Being without hot water is a pain - nobody likes cold showers! While many of us take it for granted, at the worst of times our water heaters seem to fail. Preventive maintenance can really help with future problems. Take a look at our water heater maintenance guide.

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What are instantaneous water heaters?

How to maintain a water heater: easy 12 steps and tips (1)

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Instantaneous water heaters are becoming increasingly popular among water heaters because they continuously supply hot water to the entire household.

These high-tech units offer a smart, energy-efficient solution to your hot water problems; However, they occasionally require service and maintenance. You don't always need to call in a professional to do this; You can easily learn how to maintain a water heater and do it yourself at home.

The guide below will help you understand why instantaneous water heaters are the water heaters of the future and will help you learn how to maintain instantaneous water heaters at home.

Water Heater Maintenance: Learning the Basics

Flushing out the debris and sediment deposits

When it comes to the proper maintenance and servicing of your instantaneous water heater,rinse at least onceevery two years is a must. Tankless water heaters are prone to the accumulation of minerals and sediment that can build up over time.

This affects their efficiency and lifespan, while damaging the heat exchanger in your unit. This is something you want to avoid at all costs. Not only that, but if ignored, it could result in a expensive energy bill at the end of the month causing damage that isn't covered by the warranty.

As a result, it has become extremely important to learn how to service water heaters or to call in professionals to do the job. If you intend toMaintain the heater yourself, the process is pretty simple.

  1. Begin by turning off the power source for the water heater, which is usually the main gas line or electrical equipment circuit breaker.
  2. Now turn on the three water taps attached to the instantaneous water heater. These valves are usually colored red and blue, along with a third main valve. This will prevent cold water from flowing into the heater and hot water from escaping. This makes the cleaning process much easier and more manageable.
  3. Next, identify the vent valves on the water heater (these are usually shaped like the letter T). Simply remove the purge port caps from the hot and cold valves. This is done to relieve any pressure build up in the valves so the water doesn't gush out on you on contact. Be careful not to damage the sealing discs of the rubber disc, as these are essential for the proper functioning of the valves.
  4. When you're done with the flush valves, try attaching the tubing to all three valves. Your hosting lines should be long enough to cover the gap between the water heater and the bucket. If your heater did not come with a hose assembly, you can easily purchase one from a repair shop or hardware store. They are relatively cheap to buy and install yourself.
  5. If you are a beginner and still learning how to service a water heater, try the instructions in the manual. Since the process is fairly simple, the guide should give you all the information and answers you need.
  6. After securely connecting the tubing assembly, open the purge port valves. This can easily be done by slightly turning the valves vertically in the position of the hot and cold valves.
  7. Once your water heater is set up for maintenance, pour about 2½ to 3 gallons of undiluted white vinegar into a separate bucket to clean the water heater. There are also dry cleaning solutions on the market, but white vinegar is a budget option. Additionally, since your water heater is most likely the source of your drinking water, it's better to stay away from chemicals and stick to good old-fashioned white vinegar.
  8. Rinse and drain the heater with the white vinegar mentioned above. This can take anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour. You can consult the user manual to better understand the procedure.
  9. When you are finished flushing, rotate the T-shaped handles and close the flush port valves.
  10. Carefully separate and remove the line housing from the valves, then replace the flush port valve caps on the flush valves in the same manner that you removed them. Remember to close the caps tightly while paying attention to the rubber grommet washers inside the caps.
  11. Now safely restart the water heater by opening the hot and cold valves, then open the main valve. If you are unsure or in doubt as to which valve is which, refer to the manual for specific instructions.
  12. Finally, slowly open the hot water faucet into the sink for 2 to 3 minutes to allow all the air to flow through the pipe and the water starts to flow evenly.

While flushing is undoubtedly the most important aspect of learning how to maintain a water heater, flushing alone is not enough to promise longevity of the heater.

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There are other aspects of cleaning, maintenance and upkeep that you also need to pay attention to to ensure your water heater lasts a long time. Read on to learn how to individually service the water heater parts below.

Air filter maintenance

Regular maintenance and cleaning of the air filters is just as important as flushing the heaters. To service the air filter:

  • Start by removing them from the water heater.
  • Take a soft brush and clean the filters with a soap and water solution.
  • Clean the filter gently but thoroughly to ensure proper airflow.

After cleaning, rinse the air filters with cold water and allow them to dry completely before putting them back in place. If you are unsure how to remove the air filter, refer to the manufacturer's instructions.

Regular pipe maintenance

Water heater tubes are another crucial component when it comes to maintenance and repairs. This is especially important if you live in areas with colder climates. The water heater pipes need to be inspected for cracks or damage at regular intervals to protect your heaters from possible danger or even home flooding due to a burst pipe.

Maintenance of the outside of the water heater

While learning how to maintain the inside of the water heater is important to ensure you get a constant supply of clean water, you also need to take care to keep the outside clean. To do this, simply disconnect the heater from the electricity and water supply. Now take a clean damp cloth andWipe down the outside of the tank.

This will help remove any dust, germs or debris that may have built up on it over time. This is important as this type of seemingly innocuous dirt can prove to be quite hazardous to your health if it finds its way into the heater.

Checking the pressure relief valves

Another important inspection when learning how to maintain water heaters is to regularly maintain and check the pressure relief valves. These valves are usually located on top of the heaters and are responsible for reducing the internal tank pressure when it gets too high by releasing some water.


By ensuring that the pressure relief valves are working properly, one can not worry about pressure fluctuations to avoid potential water heater disasters.

The best rated instantaneous water heaters of 2022

In case you are still trying to decide on a water heater, below is a comprehensive list of some of themThe best rated instantaneous water heaters of 2022.

  • EcoSmart ECO 27
  • Rheem 18kW instantaneous water heater
  • Stiebel Eltron DHC trend point-of-use electric instantaneous water heater
  • Rheem 13kw instantaneous water heater RTEX-13
  • Eemax 27kW Electric Tankless


Instantaneous water heaters offer a smart, cost-effective and energy-efficient solution to your hot water problems. Now that you know the best water heaters and why they need regular maintenance and service, you need to learn how to maintain water heaters at home.

From simple tasks like cleaning the outside to rinsing out unwanted debris, it can all be done at home. All it takes is a little practice, a little time to get your bearings, and a thorough reading of the manual. Much luck!

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With years of experience, Adam decided to put his water heater knowledge into action. By providing quality content and expert guides, Adam hopes to help anyone looking for expert water heater advice.

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How do you maintain a water heater? ›

Tips For Maintaining Your Hot Water Heater
  1. Regular Inspection. It is important to have your water heater serviced by a professional regularly. ...
  2. Flush The Tank Yearly. ...
  3. Insulate The Tank. ...
  4. Lower Temperature. ...
  5. Test Temperature Pressure Relief Valve. ...
  6. Replace Anode Rod. ...
  7. Replace The Air Intake Filter. ...
  8. Insulate Pipes.
Nov 24, 2022

How often should you maintain your water heater? ›

You should have your water heater serviced at least once per year. The most important part of water heater maintenance is flushing the tank. If you don't flush it, sediment will build up inside your water heater's tank.

What is preventative maintenance on a water heater? ›

Those include checking and changing anodes, flushing sediment, testing and changing temperature/pressure relief valves and such. It used to be that preventive maintenance meant anodes and sediment. These days, there is a more basic task that needs to be done regularly, and most people don't yet realize it.

What makes water heater last longer? ›

Flush the water heater tank once a year

On an electric water heater, turn the electric off to the heater. Shut the cold water off to the water heater. Open a hot water faucet. Connect a hose to the drain valve on the heater and run to a drain.

Why is water heater maintenance important? ›

When you schedule maintenance for your water heater, it helps the system run better overall. This means fewer unaddressed repairs that could add up to a replacement too early in the lifespan of your system. Early replacements are expensive ordeals that you want to avoid.

Is it better to leave the water heater on all day? ›

Generally speaking, a gas water heater should not be turned off unless you are leaving the house for an extended period of time. Even then the better choice for gas water heaters is to just turn the temperature down. In fact, many water heaters have a “vacation” setting on the temperature control.

What happens if you don't flush your water heater? ›

What happens if you don't flush your water heater? The longer your water heater goes without a drain-and-flush, the more sediment and minerals will accumulate at the bottom of the tank. Eventually, this causes scaling.

How long should a water heater stay hot? ›

As an estimate, the water in your tank should stay hot for a day or two. The larger the tank, the greater the heat loss will be, and it depends on the quality of your tank as well as the form of insulation you have.

What shortens the life of a water heater? ›

Sediment buildup shortens the life of your water heater and adds to your energy bill by reducing its efficiency. Draining two or three gallons of water is usually enough to flush out sediments, but always let the water flow until you no longer see particles in the bucket.

What is the best setting for a water heater? ›

We recommend setting the temperature anywhere within 120 to 140°F. However, you can set your water heater temperature between 130 to 140°F, especially for large water heaters used in hospitals and industrial settings. If you have children at home, set it to 120°F as this is safe to the majority of the population.

What are the signs your hot water heater is going out? ›

If you notice that the water temperature from your hot water heater is not as consistent as it used to be, or if the water temperature is noticeably lower than it used to be, this could be a sign that the unit is beginning to fail.

What does heater maintenance include? ›

Furnace maintenance or furnace tune-up involves checking, cleaning, adjusting, lubricating, and testing all the system's essential components. Homeowners can choose to get a furnace tune-up at least once every year or before the cold season begins.

Can I save money by turning off my hot water heater? ›

Turning off your water heater, like many other electrical appliances, can save you money each month on your bill. A small amount of heat escapes when the water heater is turned on, even though it's well insulated. Typically, this loss of energy is about 10 percent of your bill.

Should I turn off my hot water heater during the day? ›

No, unless you're going on vacation for a month or longer, you shouldn't turn off your water heater. Here's why: You won't see significant energy savings. You'll create more problems by turning your water heater off/on repeatedly.

Does my water heater use a lot of electricity? ›

Water heaters are among the highest energy-consuming appliances in your home. Energy star predicts that households spend between $400 and $600 on heating water every year for things like laundry, showers, and washing dishes, making water heaters the second most energy-consuming appliance in your home.

Will a plumber flush a hot water heater? ›

Most people call in a plumber to flush the water heater, but you can do it yourself if you are up to the task. You need to turn off the water heater and the water supply to the tank. Attach a hose to the drain on your water heater and drain out all the water from the tank.

Can I flush my water heater myself? ›

To flush your hot water tank, simply turn on the cold water spigot leading into your hot water tank. Let it run for a few minutes until the water exiting your hose runs clear. This may take a bit. While the water might be running clear and isn't brown, you may still have some sediment.

How many showers can you take with a 40-gallon water heater? ›

For instance, a typical shower uses about 10 gallons of hot water. So, if you have a 40-gallon hot water tank, you should be able to get four average-length showers out of your hot water tank. This also depends on how much hot water you use for other things.

Does turning up hot water heater make it last longer? ›

Turn up the thermostat on the hot water heater. One of the easiest ways to make a hot shower last longer is by using less hot water while it's at a higher temperature. To do this, turn up the temperature on the thermostat that's attached to the hot water heater tank.

What is the longest a hot water heater can last? ›

Tankless water heaters typically have a lifespan of 20 years or more. Traditional water heaters with standing water tanks can last around 10 to 15 years before you notice signs of age.

Do water heaters need to be drained annually? ›

It's generally a good idea to drain your water heater at least once a year, according to both and The Family Handyman. If you live in an area with hard water, though, Angie's List says you may need to drain it more frequently.

Do water heaters need to be flushed annually? ›

How Often Should I get My Water Heater Flushed? It is recommended that you flush your water heater at least once per year. Doing so will help to prevent the potential problems that sediment can bring over time.

How do I know if my water heater needs to be flushed? ›

Signs Your Water Heater Needs to Be Flushed
  1. Sediment in the water – The longer a water heater goes without being flushed, the more sediment builds up in it. ...
  2. Lukewarm water – When your water heater isn't flushed, lime can buildup around your water heater's heating elements.
Sep 23, 2022

How long can water sit in water heater? ›

Most homeowners should flush their water heaters every six months or so, but if you have extremely hard water, you may want to do it more often.

How long can water sit in hot water tank? ›

As an estimate, the water in your tank should stay hot for a day or two. The larger the tank, the greater the heat loss will be, and it depends on the quality of your tank as well as the form of insulation you have.

How much can you save by turning off water heater? ›

A small amount of heat escapes when the water heater is turned on, even though it's well insulated. Typically, this loss of energy is about 10 percent of your bill. If you were to turn off your water heater, you could save that 10 percent and prevent additional energy loss.

What usually fails on a water heater? ›

Water heaters don't last forever. Sometimes components fail (such as thermostat, gas control valve, heating coils in electric units, and Temperature & Pressure (T&P) valve). These parts can often be replaced without replacing the water heater. The most common failure is a leak in the water storage tank.

How often should you change anode rod in water heater? ›

By replacing your anode rod every 3-5 years, your water heater can last well over 20 years without any risk of leaks and resulting water damage. Unfortunately, if you ignore this important water heater maintenance task, you may need to replace the entire water heater after only 10 years of use.

How many showers should a hot water heater last? ›

For instance, a typical shower uses about 10 gallons of hot water. So, if you have a 40-gallon hot water tank, you should be able to get four average-length showers out of your hot water tank. This also depends on how much hot water you use for other things.

When should you hit reset button on water heater? ›

Keep in mind that a water heater's reset button serves an important purpose—interrupting power in the event of a malfunction, such as a power surge or a faulty thermostat. If your water heater loses power repeatedly, there's likely a problem that should be addressed by a professional Columbia plumber.

How long does a water heater take to heat up after flushing? ›

Here are some common heat up times for different water heaters, assuming the appliances are new and properly sized for the home: Electric storage tank water heater: 60–80 minutes. Propane storage tank water heater: 30–40 minutes. Propane tankless water heater: 0 minutes.

What does 2 flashes on water heater mean? ›

Two flashes every three seconds means the pilot is lit but the gas valve is not detecting enough milivolts being generated by the thermopile.


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