Water heater maintenance is important to keep your unit working at peak efficiency. It also extends the life of the device. A water heater is a major appliance in your home or business, and replacement can be costly. Here are some tips from Champion Plumbing & Drain Cleaning in Canton, GA that will help keep yours working for many years to come.

Flushing the Water Heater

Annually flushing your water heater is one of the easiest things you can do to keep it working great. This practice will also extend the life of the unit.

Over time, minerals suspended in your incoming water supply can settle to the bottom of your water heater and build up an accumulation of sediment. The harder your water, the more quickly this can happen.

Gas water heaters have burners on the bottom and this accumulated layer of deposits acts as an insulation blanket, cutting down the burner’s efficiency, increasing energy costs, and can lead to a premature tank failure. In certain cases this will be covered by the manufacture’s warranty, but you will still need to hire a plumber to do the replacement.

Sediment can also get stirred up by incoming water and be carried to faucet aerators and shower heads. It can clog these fittings, causing low or no water flow.

Anode Rod Replacement

Sacrificial anodes are long cylinders of aluminum or magnesium attached to a steel wire core. While it is true that all metals rust in water, different metals corrode at varying rates and that is what helps sacrificial anodes protect the steel interiors of water heater tanks.

Aluminum and magnesium are more reactive than steel, which is why anodes made from them will rust away completely before any corrosion occurs in the tank. As long as anode rods are replaced on a regular basis (once six inches of the core wire have been exposed by corrosion a new one is needed) the lifespan of a water heater tank can be extended indefinitely.

How to Know if the Anode Rod Needs Replacing

A strong odor in the water is indicative of a failed anode. Harmless bacteria reacts with the failed anode to cause a rotten egg-like odor.

An anode rod is designed to deplete. It attracts all the heavy metals and toxins in the water. They usually last 6 years. This is why most water heaters have a 6 year warranty. Some water heater manufacturers install an additional or larger anode rod in the water heater, which makes it last longer and allows for a longer warranty.

Anode Rod Replacement Procedure

Before you begin, turn off the water supply to the water heater and allow it to cool.

If you decide to replace the anode rod on your own you will need a 1-1/16-in. socket. It can be tough to loosen the anode rod. Even with a breaker bar it can be extremely difficult to break the anode rod free. It is a good idea to use an air compressor with an impact wrench.

Make sure you have the vertical clearance above the water heater to remove the existing anode. Some anode rods are interlinked, allowing them bend into sections which makes it easier.

Dip Tube Replacement

The dip tube is located on the cold side of the water heater and is usually connected to the underside of the dielectric nipple. These can fail, and when they do can cause problems with your plumbing system. Small pieces of the tube can get lodged into valves, cartridges, aerators, and shower heads, resulting in reduced or no water flow.

The purpose of the dip tube is so that cold water induced into the tank is directed to the bottom, forcing hot water out of the hot side of the heater.

You may be able to remove the old dip tube by unscrewing the nipple for the cold-water supply at the top of the tank. When loosened, pull it straight up and out of the tank. If the old dip tube is still attached to the nipple and needs replacing, you can find both at most hardware stores.

If you decide not to do it yourself give Champion Plumbing a call and we will take care of it for you.

T&P Valve

The temperature and pressure relief valve on your water heater is critical to the proper function and safety of the unit. The T&P valve relieves pressure on the tank when the temperature exceeds its rating. In other words, the T&P valve is what can keep your water heater from exploding.

Temperature and pressure relief valves are to be inspected annually and replaced every three years per code. This is to ensure that the T&P valve is working properly in the case it is needed.

When is the T&P Valve Activated?

When the temperature or pressure inside the tank exceeds 50 psig or a temperature at 210 degrees F. Per the plumbing code your T&P valve should be run independently from the water heater and terminate outside the structure. If you ever see water coming from the T&P pipe on the outside of your home, it means the T&P has actuated, and that you should investigate immediately.

When a PRV (See PRV) fails it allows the street pressure to enter your home and the T&P can serve as the first line of defense, letting you know you have a problem.

Even more dangerous would be the T&P valve actuated due to extreme internal temperatures in the water heater. This is usually the result of a malfunctioning thermostat that does not tell the burner assembly to shut down. If you suspect that your T&P may need to be checked, or is dispensing water via the T&P line, please call Champion Plumbing immediately, so we can diagnose and repair the problem. It is not wise to attempt this yourself because you could receive severe burns.

Remember, the T&P valve can be an early warning system. It  may also be a symptom of another issue with your plumbing system.

Thermal Expansion

There are two types of devices we can install to help with thermal expansion:

  • Thermal Expansion Tank
  • Thermal Expansion Valve


Like the T&P valve, a thermal expansion valve will be piped independently to the outside of the home. Please refer to out Thermal Expansion page for more information.

Shut off Valve

It is important to actuate the shut off valve above your water heater to make sure it is operating correctly. In the event of a tank failure, this is the fastest and easiest way to stop new water from entering the tank and flooding the area. Some gate valves will fail if they haven’t been used in a while. If they fail you will need to turn off the main line to stop incoming water. The extra time it takes to check the shut off valve can be the difference in thousands of dollars in damages to your property.

Electric Water Heaters Only

Electric Heating Elements

Electric water heaters use heating elements to heat water. These can become covered with scale and debris after a few years and result in lower water temperature and a slower recovery times. This increases your energy costs.

Replacing Electric Water Heater Elements

Shut off electricity to water heater before beginning. DANGER HIGH VOLTAGE!

You will need to use a water heater element socket to remove the upper and lower elements from the tank. First turn off the power and drain the tank. Then remove the two elements. Replace with the correct size and wattage and you will restore new life into your heater.


Electric water heaters have a safety cut off switch that will kill the power to the elements in the result of a thermostat failure. Checking the ohms and voltage is a good way to prevent thermostat failure.

Gas Water Heaters Only

Flue Piping and Flue Vent Connector

Make sure you have a clean flue pipe that extends out of your home. Birds nests, leaves, and squirrels can plug up the termination of the flue, not allowing it to draft properly. Some newer gas water heaters have safety devices in place such as pilot extinguishers to prevent the water heater from firing, which can save your life if the carbon monoxide has nowhere to go. It is also important to keep the bottom of your water heater clean and free from debris or dust as it needs air to operate correctly. Most of the air intakes are located near the bottom of the water heater. Pull and clean the screen around the air intake annually to make sure it is getting the necessary air flow.

Do you have questions about plumbing? We’ve got answers! Join our Facebook group Plumbing Questions and Answers, or check out our page About Plumbing. Feel free to call us at 770-480-5077.