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Purchasing and Maintaining your Tank-style Water Heater... Tips from a Pro

This article courtesy PAV Plumbing

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 replacement hot 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.

Article courtesy of PAV Plumbing, a fast response plumbing company operating in the Sydney metro area. If you need a Sydney plumber for hot water heater advice or installations, contact PAV Plumbing or visit the website.

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