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How to take extra-special care of your water heater

hot water heater valves

Your hot water heater doesn't need to be a hot mess.

Don't be shy. Get to know your hot water heater. Just because it lives in the basement of your home - out of sight and out of mind, at least until there's a problem - doesn't mean it should get ignored by you.

No expert needed (well, not always)

How to Care for Your Water Heater

The good thing about hot water heaters? They're actually pretty easy to maintain.  Homeowners don't need expert plumbing skills to keep it up and running. In fact, as long as you routinely inspect the water heater, chances are it will be able to go years without needing replacement or even a repair from a water heating professional.

One of the essential tasks of a homeowner is making sure that you are using your hot water heater safely and efficiently. It's the best way to prevent an expensive disaster down the road.

So what does this actually mean? Let's answer that question with another question...

How hot is too hot?

Check the water temperature setting in the machine.  Make sure that it's at a consistent and sustainable level. The water shouldn't be set above 150 degrees Fahrenheit. Ouch! Going any hotter can result in water that is painful and potentially dangerous when you are in the shower or washing your hands in the kitchen sink.

The pipes in your home (as well as the people) are sensitive to heat. Water that is too hot could have a damaging impact on your internal network of plumbing pipes. If you have questions, don't guess - talk to a plumbing professional.

Understand how to relieve the pressure

It's important to check the pressure-relief valve every now and again. The pressure in the hot water heater can eventually build to a point where it can no longer be sustained by the machine.

In order to check the pressure, lower the lever on the valve on the hot water heater. If you notice water draining from the overflow pipe, wait until the water is done draining before closing the value again.  Doing so will relieve any of the pressure that has built up in the hot water heater and keep it from breaking down.  We recommend doing this once every few months.

Counterpoint: Plumber Mark Dawson told the TODAY Show that professionals should drain the water heater or test pressure valve. He noted that "if the valve is not properly removed, the pressure from the tank can disperse scalding hot water that could cause serious burns as well as property damage." be smart, people - if you're not comfortable doing it yourself, or really don't know what you're doing, call a master plumber.

Melt your utility bill: Add insulation

Insulate your hot water pipes if they travel a relatively long distance in your house. This will help minimize the amount of energy it takes to heat the water in your home (foam insulation sleeves work wonders here).  Insulation keeps the heat from escaping from the pipes, so all of that warmth and energy will instead be used to keep the water hot. And - in the winter - the insulation helps keep your pipes from freezing. Ultimately, showers will become more comfortable and your monthly utilities will begin to shrink.

If you're facing issues with your hot water heater, or any other part of your home's plumbing system, be sure to schedule an appointment with an Arlington Plumber from John C. Flood as soon as possible!