Preventive Maintenance Can Extend Your Water Heater’s Useful Life… Check Yours Today!

Your water heater is probably the most important part of your homes plumbing system. A properly maintained heater can last from ten to fifteen years or more. But, a heater not properly maintained can fail in four to six years. The condition of the drinking water in your area and the location of the heater in your home are out of your control, but proper maintenance of the heater and your plumbing system is crucial to heater longevity and safety.

This article gives you a list of items to check for both tank type and tankless water heaters. As you go through the steps in checking your heater, if you have the slightest doubt in your ability, get a professional, licensed plumber involved! You are dealing with hot water, natural gas, and electricity!

Tank Type Water Heater Maintenance:

Vent (Gas Water Heaters Only)

  • The vent should be the same diameter as the draft diverter on the heater tank.
  • The vent should go generally “up and out” the ceiling.
  • Where is passes through the exterior wall, the vent should be double-walled.
  • Vent sections should be screwed together with a minimum three screws per section.

Note: Bad vent pipe connections can fall apart and lead to carbon monoxide poisoning, the silent and deadly gas!

Temperature & Pressure Relief Valve (T&P Valve)The T&P valve is designed to prevent the heater from exploding if the water pressure or temperature exceeds safe limits.

  • Pull up the handle on the valve and water should flow out and stop when you let go of the handle.
  • The T&P valve has a drain line that should go down to about 6″ from the floor or be plumbed outside your home.

Note: Water leaking out of a T&P drain line can signal a bad T&P valve, high water pressure, or a malfunctioning thermal expansion device.

Water Pressure (All Water Heaters)

  • Water pressure over 80 pounds per square inch (psi) can damage heaters and your piping. It can also damage plumbing appliances, toilets, and your fixtures.

Note: One giveaway that your have high water pressure is when the T&P Valve on the heater starts opening and closing.

Outer Water Heater Metal Shell & Plumbing Fittings

  • Inspect the heater outer sheet metal shell for leaks or rusting.
  • Inspect the plumbing fittings on the heater for corrosion, rust, or water spotting.

Note: Rusty fittings or discolored shell is a telltale sign that a leak is present!

Temperature Control

  • Inspect the heater temperature control dial to insure its set at the correct water temperature.
  • The ideal water temperature is 120° Fahrenheit.

Note: Anything above 120° Fahrenheit greatly increases scalding risk, energy use, and sediment build-up in the bottom of the heater!

Combustion Chamber (Gas Water Heaters)

  • Turn the gas valve control to “pilot position”.
  • Remove the outer access hatch or cover on the side of the heater.
  • Inspect the roof of the chamber for heavy rusting, water marking, or pitting.
  • Return the gas valve control back to the “on position”.

Note: Black soot in the combustion chamber means drafting problems, combustion problems, fume problems, and a fire hazard!

Pedestal Base (Gas Water Heaters)

  • Make sure the pedestal base the heater rests on is stable and supports the unit.
  • The typical pedestal will keep the bottom of the heater at least 18″ off the floor.

Note: A newer water heater may have a “filtered combustion chamber” that is supposed to resolve the need for a pedestal. Check the owner’s manual for your heater.

Drain Valve

  • Open the drain valve to insure that mineral sediment, anode sludge, or rust has not clogged your heaters drain.

Drain Overflow Pan

  • If your heater is on the 2nd floor above living space it should have a drain pan.
  • The drain pan should be plumbed to the outside of your home.
  • Inspect the condition of the drain pan, fittings, and piping to the outside.

Corrosive Fumes (Gas Water Heaters & Tankless Water Heaters)

  • Water heaters draw air in for combustion and the quality of the air is important.
  • Corrosive liquids, ammonia, or acids stored near a heater can lead to corrosive air.

Note: Corrosive air drawn into the burner can prematurely corrode the heater.

Internal Tank Corrosion and Rust-The internal tank of your heater is constructed of steel and glass lined to prevent rust. Sacrificial anode rods are installed in the tank to protect the glass lined internal steel tank from rust. Aluminum/Zinc or magnesium anode rods corrode over time and get used up through an electrolytic process.

Note: Replacing the anode rod can extend the life of the heater but, should be done by a trained, professional service technician.

Sediment Build-up-Sediment is created when hard water is heated. The build-up of sediment in the bottom of the tank can cause the bottom to overheat and melt away the glass lining of the tank. It can drift into recirculating lines, jam open check valves, and cause the recirculating pump to stick until it burns out. Sediment build-up on the bottom of gas water heaters encourages noisy operation. The noise is caused by small amounts of water under the sediment layer turning into steam bubbles, which then collapse violently.

Note: Sediment build-up can reduce the energy efficiency of the heater and void the warranty on some Residential Water Heaters!

Tankless Water Heater Maintenance:

Flushing-Most tankless water heater manufacturers recommend flushing the entire unit every 6 months to 1 year depending upon the water quality. Reference your manufactures recommendation for flushing. Flushing the unit regularly removes any mineral deposits (usually calcium or lime) that may have built up inside the boilers. Manufacturers recommend using a utility pump to circulate 3 or 4 gallons of vinegar or another low-grade acid for 45 minutes to clean out any deposits.

Note: Without the proper equipment this can overwhelm a “Do-It-Yourselfer”!

Water Drain Valve

  • Periodically check the heater’s “in-line filter” to keep grime and debris from building up. The filter is a cylindrical screen.

Note: Consult the manufactures directions for cleaning to avoid injury due to hot water.

Troubleshooting-If a fault occurs with your tankless water heater, an error code will flash on the digital display of the control panel.

Note: If any remedy involves gas or electricity, or you have any doubt about performing the remedy yourself call a qualified service technician! Make sure he is knowledgeable of your brand of heater, has the proper tools to diagnose the problem, and has the parts to repair the unit.

Greenhouse Heaters, Many Styles To Choose From

Over the course of a day, temperatures inside a greenhouse can fluctuate dramatically. This is especially true at night when cold temperatures could damage plants. To maintain the proper temperature for optimal plant growth, a greenhouse heater is recommended.

Upon seeing the many options available for greenhouse heaters, knowing which one to choose can be a daunting task. By understanding the various types of heaters and their features, anyone can make an informed decision about the right greenhouse heater for his needs.


Electric Heaters: For smaller greenhouses, these types of greenhouse heaters are perfect. Electric heaters have the ability to maintain specific temperatures while not releasing fumes. Without fumes, there is no need for extra ventilation within the greenhouse.

Gas Heaters: These greenhouse heaters run on natural gas or gas canisters and are better suited for larger areas. Ventilation is important with this type of greenhouse heater since fumes are produced and need to be vented outside. When using a gas heater, it is important to place the heater in a secure and accessible location since it will require regular monitoring and maintenance.

Paraffin Heaters: These greenhouse heaters are the most primitive. Like gas heaters, paraffin heaters require fuel which eventually releases fumes meaning that proper ventilation is needed. These heaters also require the most maintenance of the heaters listed. Maintenance includes constant fueling and trimming of the wick. Paraffin heaters are perfect, however, as an emergency heater or for a light frost.

Mounting Greenhouse Heaters

Hanging Mount: With this method, greenhouse heaters are either attached to the ceiling or allowed to hang down. This method is beneficial because no floor space is used, but care should be taken to avoid the heater becoming an obstruction.

Wall Mount: Like it sounds, these types of greenhouse heaters connect directly to the wall and allow for ventilation to the outside of the greenhouse. Again, no floor space is needed, but the area in front of the heater should be clear.

Floor Mount: Floor mounted heaters can stand alone anywhere on the floor of the greenhouse to maximize efficiency. Obviously, one should not choose this type of heater if space is limited.

Heater Combustion

Open: Greenhouse heaters using this system have no contact with air outside the greenhouse. This system is appropriate as long as the air inside the greenhouse has no contaminates. Extreme care should be taken to assure that no flammable liquids are placed near the heater as the burner is not sealed.

Separated: This system, used by gas heaters, works by pulling air from outside the greenhouse for combustion. The exhaust is then released back outside the structure. The burner in this system is sealed to separate the air from outside and inside the greenhouse.

Sealed: Sealed systems are very similar to separated systems. The air used comes from outside the building, and the burner is completely sealed. The difference comes from the fact that sealed systems use a single direct vent for both exhaust and intake.

Heater Vents

Unvented: As the name implies, there are no true vents with this option. Any fumes produced by the heater will be released back into the greenhouse. This ventilation type should only be used temporarily as fumes can be harmful to many plants.

Gravity: Here the exhaust moves upward through a vertical pipe and is released outside the building. The main consideration for this type of vent is that exhaust pipes must go straight to the ceiling.

Power: This system works by forcibly pushing air through a series of pipes leading outside the greenhouse. Using a powered system allows for more flexibility in choosing an exit location and is more efficient through the use of smaller pipes.

Direct: This type of ventilation is used exclusively by sealed combustion systems. Direct ventilation works by using only one vent pipe. Inside the main pipe, however, are both the intake and exhaust pipes.

Aside from the four features mentioned above, anyone planning to install a greenhouse heater should also check the output range, which is a measure of the heat output. The desired number for the output range is determined by the size and shape of the greenhouse, and any local greenhouse supplier should be able to calculate the proper level.

Along with Greenhouse Heaters, there are many more accessories that are required to run an efficient Greenhouse. Check out Greenhouse Supplies

Buying a Patio Heater With Confidence

Outdoor Patio Heaters can be found on offer at numerous E-commerce stores as well as major brick and mortar stores. The question then becomes where to buy from and more importantly which brand is going to give the best bang for the buck. Another very important consideration is the fuel source that you have available to you at your location.

Price isn’t everything – Test their Outdoor Heater Knowledge

Where to buy from – it is so important to be sure of all of the needs above are dealt with that you should ask questions and run as fast as you can if you are not given specific answers that you can verify. On-line stores generally offer best pricing, but I recommend that you call and speak with their customer service as you do need to ask the questions. If they do not appear to be knowledgeable about the product call another company.

Which Outdoor Patio Heater is Right

Look for outdoor electric and gas heaters that operate on the principal of generating the heat via infra-red rays. The benefit of this that the heat generated does not heat the air but heats the object. The object being, the human body, concrete/tile floor etc. One should also be aware that although gas heaters are sold as infra-red heaters, for them to operate in this manner, they need to be run on their high heat setting.

Which is the correct heater for your needs – outside heaters are available in versions running off liquid propane, natural gas and electricity. From a cost of running perspective, natural gas is generally the most cost effective followed by the other two forms at about an equal cost? For the casual user the cost of running will not be a significant issue due to the generally low hours that the heater is used for on a daily basis. For commercial installations this can very quickly become an issue. Both electric and gas heaters come in formats that are free standing or wall mounted. Where possible a wall mounted heater is the preferred choice due to the fact that you then free up floor space and avoid loose wires or gas feeds to trip on.

Outdoor Electric Heaters

Electric heaters are available predominantly in 120V or 240V format. The power rating of the heater is limited by the voltage. You therefore will not see 120V heaters running at more than 1500W which is equivalent to most ladies hair dryers. These 120V heaters are mostly used where you have one or two chairs closely situated and you would place the heater next to the chair or between them and receive very localized heat. In moving up to 240v electric supply your power options increase substantially with the 6000W heater generally being about the most powerful unit that you will find. At this point it becomes very important that you select the correct heater based on your criteria. You need to look at the height at which you will be able to install the heater, how large an area you want to heat and what your prevailing temperature will be at the time that you want to use the heater. With outdoor electric heaters matching the heater to the installation height is critical. By not being aware of this criterion you will invariably find that you have less heat than what you expected or needed or if the heater is too powerful for the installation height, you will constantly be uncomfortable with a feeling of being overheated or worse yet cooked. It is best practice to install a heater that is slightly more powerful than what you estimated your need to be and then be sure to use a controller that allows you to control the heat output as needed.

Gas Patio Heaters

Gas heaters – come in free standing versions and wall mount and as mentioned, use propane or natural gas as the fuel, otherwise know as, outdoor gas heaters. Free standing heaters have an average output ranging between thirty to fifty thousand BTU. The available brands and models range in price from $199 to $1500. As is the case in most instances in life, you get what you pay for. The low cost versions generally burn at a lower heat than advertised, don’t have parts availability and will need replacing far sooner than the better quality units. Wall mount gas heaters are available in versions that use a low voltage electrical current to ignite the heater from a switch on the wall or via a remote.

Whatever your choice or installation, it is always recommended to purchase from a company that is knowledgeable about their product.