Up to 25 percent of the energy you use in your home is for heating your water. However, this number can rise quite a bit if you let your water heater fall into disrepair. It’s a good idea to flush your water heater once a year (or at least every few years) to remove built-up gunk and make sure it’s running as efficiently as possible.
Safety Note: Remember that the water in your heater, and many of the pipes from your water heater, will be very HOT. So, please be careful what you touch when inspecting your heater.
Need a hand? To hire a professional to inspect and maintain your water heater, visit Angie's List to find a service provider in your area.
Locate your water heater. There isn’t a set “spot” for a water heater to be installed, but they are usually located on an exterior wall, near your gas and water supply lines. If you don’t see it there, check any utility closets in your home, your basement and the garage, if you have them. If you can't find your water heater (and you have a tankless heater), you should try and listen for it to turn on and off. (It does so when someone uses hot water.)
Do an external inspection. Start with a visual inspection. How does your water heater look? Check the tank for signs of leaks (take a look at the floor under the water heater), as well as the relief valve (take a look under and around the valve), and the piping to and from the water heater.
Flush out the tank. To keep your unit in the best possible condition, flush your hot water heater once a year — or at least every very few years. Flushing the tank removes built-up gunk and keeps it running efficiently. Click here for a step-by-step on flushing your water heater.
Check the anode rod. The anode rod is the water heater’s defense mechanism against rust and corrosion and prevents premature failure. Depending on the chemical composition of your water, your anode rod can last anywhere from a few years to the life of your water heater. It’s a good idea to check the condition of the anode rod every few years.
Check the heater vent. If your water heater has a top vent, you need to ensure it’s working properly. Otherwise, it can vent noxious gases into your home. Light a match and hold it next to the gap between the top of the water heater and the vent. When the water heater turns on, watch to see if the flame on the match is drawn toward the gap. If it is, you’re in good shape. If not, we recommend you call a plumber to check out your system. Note: If you have an electric or high-efficiency water heater, you can skip this step.