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Purchasing and Maintaining your Tank-style Water Heater... Tips from a Pro
Hot water heaters are a big investment when one considers the cost of the
unit and a plumber to install it!
The following article provides a number of
tips from a plumber, designed to help you maximize the life of your cylinder and
minimize water damage in the event that it does split at some stage in the
future. These tips may be worth keeping in mind next time you have a new or
water heater installed.
1. Install the correct pressure limiting valve
A pressure limiting valve (also known as a pressure reducing valve) is a
device that limits the inlet water pressure to a hot water heater when the water
supply pressure exceeds an acceptable level. Excessive water pressure is by far
the most common cause of cylinders splitting prematurely. A pressure limiting
valve will maximize the working life of a heater by reducing stress on the
cylinder, extending life by as much as 50% in some cases. These valves are also
often required by manufacturers or the warranty on the unit may be void, so it
is worth making sure that the correct valve is installed by your plumber. For
more information check the product guide supplied with the hot water heater and
the specifications normally printed on the side of the cylinder.
2. Install a tempering valve with your heater
A tempering valve is a device that can be installed with a hot water heater
to ensure that water does not exceed a specified temperature at taps and outlets
around the house. This can be a good safety precaution, especially when there
are children around. In many countries it is now actually mandatory that a
tempering valve be installed with all new or replacement heaters. Some plumbers
will ask customers to sign a waiver shifting legal liability for not installing
a tempering valve to the customer. This may reduce the cost initially, but
greatly increases the chances of hot water burns, and could lead to legal
complications in the future.
3. Install a tray underneath your cylinder
Statistically, hot water heaters are most likely to split in the early hours
of the morning. The reason for this is that less people are using water over
this period, so the pressure of the water supply to your cylinder is at its
highest. As the majority of people are asleep, water damage to the floor, carpet
and furniture in adjacent rooms is common. In apartment buildings it is also
common for water to run under walls into other apartments and common areas
causing further damage. It is thus a good idea to ask your plumber to install a
tray under your hot water cylinder. This is fairly cheap and simple to do at the
time your heater is installed and will limit or in some cases even prevent water
damage in the event that it does burst or split.
4. Check your cylinder regularly for deterioration
A simple test to check for rust on the inside of a hot water heater is to run
hot water in the bath or a ceramic basin. If the water appears slightly orange
or dirty it would suggest that the cylinder is deteriorating on the inside and
you may want to call a plumber to replace it. You can also check the manufacture
date printed in the specifications on the side of the cylinder. A life
expectancy of between six and ten years is suggested by manufacturers. If
unsure, it may be worth contacting your plumber to avoid possible water damage
and the cost of an emergency plumber in the event that the hot water heater does
split or burst.
5. Listen for a rumbling sound that may indicate a buildup of sediment
A rumbling sound coming from your hot water cylinder is an indication that
sediment may be collecting on the bottom of the heater. This sound is typically
caused when water is trapped in the sediment and is boiling. Sediment will
prevent heat being transferred to the water in the cylinder and will cause the
heat to escape up the flue. This means that the hot water heater will not
operate efficiently and energy is being wasted. By draining water from the
outlet valve (see tip 6) it is often possible to remove some of this sediment.
Many newer hot water heater models have features that prevent the buildup of
sediment, so if this is a recurring problem it may be time for a new cylinder.
6. Completely drain the cylinder once a year
By draining a hot water heater on a regular basis, sediment is flushed and
buildup on the bottom of the cylinder can be minimized. The first step to do
this is to turn off the power (gas or electric) and let the water cool down. Hot
water is dangerous and can burn! Close the water inlet valve to the hot water
heater and attach a hose to the outlet valve. The water in the cylinder should
be directed into the nearest floor drain or outside where the water can escape.
It is also a good idea to turn on one hot water tap in the house to let air in.
Once the water has been drained the cold water valve should be turned on and off
until water appears clear. The outlet valve should then be closed, and the water
supply and power to the cylinder turned back on. You will then need to wait for
water to be heated before using hot water.
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