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How Not to Need a Plumber: Water Heater Maintenance

The temperature and pressure relief valve is critical to the safety and proper operation of your water heater. It’s a simple but important valve and should be checked once a year. The T&P relief valve is located either on the top of the water heater in the centre or on the side of the water heater about three quarters of the way up. It has a brass colour and a small steel lever handle on the top. To test the T&P relief valve:

  • Simply lift up on the lever part way, then let go and allow it to rapidly snap back.
  • You should hear a gurgling sound as the valve allows some water to be released into the drain tube.
  • If the T&P valve did nothing or continues to run after it is released then it is faulty/fouled and needs to be replaced.

Removal of sediments from the bottom of the tank is important to prevent rust, corrosion and improve efficiency. Although a full water heater tank draining and flush is best, performing a full flush is a bit of work and requires shutting down the water heater. This mini-flush works well, takes a fraction of the time and allows you to do it while the water heater is running:

  • Screw a garden hose onto the drain valve found near the bottom of the tank.
  • Some drain valves have a handle. Others have a short handle-less stem with a slot for a flat blade screwdriver.
  • Turn the valve counter-clockwise to release a few gallons into a bucket or the bathtub.
  • Close the valve by turning it clockwise.
  • Repeat as neccessary till the water running from the hose is clear.

Perform a full flush once a year:

  • For electric heaters, turn off the power. For gas, turn the control to pilot.
  • Turn off the cold inlet valve
  • Attach a garden hose to the outlet valve at the bottom, and position to allow safe draining of hot water.
  • Open the outlet valve.
  • Open a hot water tap in the home, preferably upstairs if applicable.
  • Once the tank drains, reopen the cold valve to flush the tank.
  • Once thoroughly flushed, reverse the process to restore normal operation.