Water Heater Maintenance Guide for Tankless & Storage Units

Person performing maintenance on a water heater

Like other large appliances in your home, water heaters often require regular care in order to make it for the long haul.

Considering how often and how necessary hot water is to one’s daily life (think: shower, laundry, dishwasher and more…), keeping up with your heating system should be at the top of your to-do list. The last thing you want to wake up to is a freezing cold morning shower or similar inconvenience you weren’t prepared for.

Luckily, water heater maintenance and cleaning doesn’t have to be a total mystery. Below we will lay out the main points you need to remember when taking care of your heater, no matter the type or size. You don’t have to be a handyman or a plumbing expert to do it, either –– DIYers welcome.

Read on to learn how to conduct basic maintenance on your apparatus in order to extend its life, keep you comfortable, and save you money in the long run.

Basic Hot Water Heater Maintenance

The more you maintain a clean and functional system, the longer it will last. In other words, take care of your water heater so that it takes care of you.

There are two main types of heaters, tank and tankless, with each requiring slightly different cleaning and maintenance processes. We will break down the main steps both.

No matter what, make sure to put safety first and take all necessary precautions and heed all manufacturer warnings. Wear goggles, gloves, and other protective clothing while cleaning and performing other maintenance on your appliance. If you aren’t sure about how to do something, call a professional rather than try it yourself.

Storage Tank Water Heater Maintenance and Cleaning

Tank water heaters should be checked and maintained approximately every six months.

  • The first thing to check on a storage unit is the pressure valve. If the tank were to over pressurize, this relief valve opens and releases the pressure. Incorrect valve functioning could result in an issue as serious as the tank exploding.
    • Check this by first turning off the electricity or gas and shutting off the cold water inlet (this is the first step in most cleaning and maintenance procedures). Then, place a receptacle to catch water, and pull the trip lever on the valve. If you don’t see water and vapor exiting through the valve, you know it’s time to replace it.
  • Check and clean clogged water lines from sediment buildup which can cause decreased efficiency. The quickest fix for this issue is to flush out the tank.
    • To do this, turn off the electricity or gas, shut off the cold water inlet, and connect a garden hose to the tank’s drain valve, placing the end in an area where hot water can flow. Allow the tank to drain completely, which will remove all the sediment possible. Disconnect the hose and close the tank drain and pressure release valve.
    • Turn on all hot water spigots throughout your house, and turn on the cold water inlet to the tank. When water starts to flow from each spigot, close each one until they are all off, and then resume the electricity or gas.

Tankless Water Heater Maintenance and Cleaning

Tankless water heaters have slightly more complicated systems, meaning that when things get broken, the cost for repairs and replacements is even higher. For your unit, be sure to perform maintenance activities yearly at the very least to prevent this. Also, review the manual to see what type of cleaning is recommended.

  • The heat exchange elements in a demand water heater are the most important parts to keep clean. Regularly remove lime scale buildup from your system using a specific cleaner or as directed by the manufacturer. This will ensure that your system is running as efficiently as possible.
  • White vinegar is often recommended as a safe and helpful item to have at the ready when you are cleaning a tankless water heater.

SpeedClean Industrial Descaler System

Cleaning Products to Help

Having the right tools and supplies at the ready can make all the difference in making your water heater cleaning experience a quick and relatively painless process.

For example, an industrial descaler system like the SpeedClean SC-DS-5 BucketDescaler can easily eliminate limescale build-up and water deposits by automatically circulating a cleaning solution throughout your system. This particular product can be used in either tank or tankless units. Using this product to clean out your water heater will help prevent rust and other issues from slowing down the performance of your system. The BucketDescaler System includes:

  • 5 gallon bucket
  • Acid-proof pump
  • Two 6 foot acid-proof hoses
  • 12 foot electrical cord

Here’s a quick video that shows the power and performance capabilities of the SpeedClean BucketDescaler:

System Tune Up

Beyond keeping your system clean, there are other small fixes or adjustments that can be made to improve the lifespan of your machine. It’s typically best to consult a professional who can help you tune up your system if you’re noticing any issues or if you just think it’s time for a check-up.

Faulty connections within your system can cause leaks, drips, and other nuisances. If you notice these issues occurring with your hot water heater, consult with an expert soon. The heating and cooling expert will check to make sure your pressure valve is operating correctly, the pilot light is lit, and/or electric power is connected, amongst other checks. They can also tighten up the system if there are any small adjustments that need made.

Keep Up with Upkeep

Water heaters can be your best friend –– there for you in your day-to-day cleaning, chores, and hygiene. It is worth taking the time to take care of them.

The biggest reason why most people invest time in water heater maintenance is simply because it makes your system last longer and pushes back the need for water heater replacement.

Depending on the type you have (tank or tankless), there are slightly different steps for maintenance that you should follow. In addition, there are products and accessories available to help you optimize your system’s performance and life.

Total Home Supply carries a selection of accessories and cleaning products to help maintain your system. If you’re in need of a new system, find the perfect hot water heater for your home.



Mickey Luongo

Mickey is the resident heating and air conditioning expert with over 15 years of experience in the industry.

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