Here we look at how to upkeep your gas hot water system – what you can do yourself, and when to call in the pros.
Servicing your system
Did you know that regular maintenance can more than double the effective lifespan of your water heater?1. Classic storage tank water heaters can last around 10-12 years, while tankless systems can enjoy up to 20 years with correct servicing2.
Always check your manufacturer’s guide for their recommendation, but maintenance should typically be done every five years to keep your system running tip top3. And when it’s time for a tradie – that is, a qualified and licensed plumber – make sure they check out the following:
• The sacrificial anode: This is a metal rod that hangs down inside your tank to attract impurities that would react with the tank and cause it to rust. Because the rod itself rusts, it should be replaced around every five years4 (or as recommended by your manufacturer); failure to do this is one of the most common reasons for hot water system breakdown.
• The temperature and pressure relief valve: This helps regulate traditional storage tank systems by venting hot water when needed. While periodic replacement needs to be carried out by a pro, you can check on it yourself between professional services – read on for the details…
Home health check
If you have a storage tank system, checking the temperature and pressure relief valve is something you can do yourself every six months. It involves expelling very hot water, so you’ll need to take precautions like wearing gloves, long pants and closed-toed shoes.
First check that the ground underneath the valve is clear and stand as far back as possible. Lift the handle on the valve slowly to release a little water from the end of the pipe before returning the lever to close the valve and stop the flow. If it feels stuck or if the water continues to flow after closing, don’t force it – call your plumber, as it likely needs replacing.
Time for some professional TLC?
Between scheduled services, there are signs to watch out for which indicate that a pro should pop by sooner rather than later:
• If you have a tankless continuous flow system and the temperature fluctuates often5 (note that gradual temperature fluctuation is normal for storage tank systems)
• If you have a tank system and there is a constant leak or frequent venting of hot water from the temperature and pressure release valve/pipe (though it’s normal for the valve to release a little bit of water)
• If you smell gas, act immediately. Turn the gas off at the source if it’s safe to do so, extinguish any flames and avoid operating electrical switches or mobile phones nearby – find a safe spot and call your gas fitter or plumber.
Murphy’s Law says that if a hot water system is on the brink of break down, it’s going to choose the most inconvenient time to go. Cold shower, anyone? But you can help avoid the pain of after-hours call-outs and hours without hot water with regular servicing and knowing what to look out for. Long live your home’s hot water heater!
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