As seen in Chandler Republic in September 2022

By Mike Donley, Donley Service Center

On a day-to-day basis you may not spend too much time thinking about your water heater. But if you’ve ever had a water heater stop working, or worse yet burst, you know how debilitating not having hot water can be to a household.

In general, water heaters don’t take much upkeep, but there are a few things you should know as a home owner.

Don’t forget to flush (your water heater.) Once a year set aside time to flush your water heater. This is especially important in Arizona because of the Valley’s hard water. Sediment builds up at the bottom of the tank which can reduce efficiency and corrode the metal, which will ultimately lead to leaks or a busted water heater. Flushing the tank at least once a year can extend the life of your water heater.

Turn the heater “vacation” or “off” before you start the draining process. If you have a gas unit, you’ll need to relight the pilot light after draining is completed. Next, turn the cold-water supply valve off. Connect a water hose to the drain spigot at bottom of the water heater. Make sure the hose extends away from people, pets and plants because the water coming out will be extremely hot. Before you start draining, turn on a single faucet in the house using the hot water side only. This will let air into the system so water can drain. After the water has drained, loosen the sediment by flushing the tank with cold water. Open the cold-water inlet for about 15 seconds which will shoot cold water to the bottom of tank and stir up sediment. Repeat this process until water runs clear.

Signs your water heater may need professional service or replacement. Age matters. Typically, a water heater that’s more than 10 years old should be replaced for maximum efficiency and hot water output. Keep your eyes out for rusty water from the hot side which could be a sign of corrosion and an imminent leak. Your water heater shouldn’t make any noises, either. If you hear rumbling, banging or clanging, know a new water heater is in your future.

Replacing and installing an average-sized water heater costs between $1,500 and $2,500 generally, but annual maintenance can add years to the life of your appliance, especially for households with hard water.

What kind of water heater is best? For most people, a water heater isn’t something you buy every day. Most likely you will only buy a few in your lifetime so there is no shame in not knowing much about this household appliance. There are many different kinds of water heaters on the market today including electric, gas, solar, conventional and tankless. Talk to a plumbing expert about what type of unit is best for your needs. Ask about the benefits of each type, the average life span of the product and the maintenance requirements before you chose the option best for you.

When money is tight, it’s easy to put off home improvement projects. But if your water heater is older than 12 years, or is starting to show signs of age, don’t wait until you are mopping up a 40-gallon leak to replace this vital household appliance.

Mike Donley and his father, Jim, have provided honest, caring air conditioning, plumbing, heating, sewer repair services to Arizonans since 1976. Family-owned Donley Service Center has also been honored twice with the Better Business Bureau’s Ethics Award.