Water heaters are one of those things that we all know need regular maintenance, but not many of us really know how much or what to do about it. We all know the consequences if something goes wrong though. Leaks, flooding, and expensive repairs just to name a few. So what should you be doing regularly to keep your water heater healthy and working well? How often should you flush your water heater?
“Flushing clears the tank of sediment and mineral buildup that can damage your heater.”
The most important thing for extending the life of your water heater and keeping it working is regular flushing. Flushing clears the tank of sediment and mineral buildup that can damage your heater. Thankfully, water heater flushing is quick, inexpensive, and will do wonders for the quality of your hot water. Let’s take a look at why it’s important and how it should be done.
You may have heard the term ‘hard water’ used by your plumber at some point. If you live in an area with particularly hard water, you may even have a water softener installed. Hard water is a bit of a confusing term. It sounds like you might have water that refuses to leave your pipes. What it really refers to is the mineral content of your water. All water has some level of mineral content, but some areas have more or less of it. Areas with lots of limestone in the ground will have much higher levels of calcium and magnesium in their water
Water heater flushing is necessary because, over time, that mineral content will build up in pipes and particularly inside your water heater. Along with sediment from your city’s water supply, minerals in the water can quite quickly fill up your water heater and cause damage. Uneven heating may cause leaks, sediment can damage the lower element, and your drain valve may become blocked entirely in some cases. Not only that, but it will also limit the capacity of your heater, meaning less hot water for you and your family.
There are lots of variables that will impact how quickly sediment and minerals build up in your water heater. The quality of filtration for your water supply will determine how much sediment is in the water. As we said, areas with hard water will have more minerals moving through the system on a regular basis, causing buildup to occur more quickly. However, houses in areas with particularly hard water may have a water softener to filter out some of the minerals, slowing the process down.
With all of those variables, it is hard to provide an exact timeline for water heater flushing. Some households in areas with very soft, well-filtered water may not notice any issues with their water heater for years. Others might begin to see a dip in their water heater’s performance every few months.
“Most manufacturers and experts suggest that you have your water heater flushed once every six months.“
As a general rule, most manufacturers and experts suggest that you have your water heater flushed once every six months, and at least one every year. This is because, while sediment and mineral buildup may not be noticeable yet, any buildup can still be damaging and lower the life expectancy of your heater.
Water heater flushing is a relatively quick and simple process. Essentially the heater just needs to be drained correctly and refilled. Some handy homeowners even opt to flush their water heaters themselves. However, there are very specific steps to follow and failing to do it correctly could damage your water heater or cause injury. You may also not fully drain and flush the system if you don’t know what you’re looking for. That would result in you needing to flush the water heater again sooner without realizing it.
Most manufacturers recommend that you hire an expert plumber to do it. They will know what to look for and ensure that your heater is fully drained and refilled correctly. In addition, they will be able to spot any more serious issues with your water heater that might be starting to develop. Getting out in front of those kinds of problems can save you lots of money in the long run. Water heater flushing is quick and relatively inexpensive, so investing in a plumber to do it is usually the best option.
The cost of flushing a water heater can vary quite a lot depending on the area, the quality of the plumber, and the type of water heater. Generally, for most standard water heaters, a flush will cost between $80 and $100. However, if the plumber identifies a bigger issue that needs to be resolved then you may have to pay additional amounts for that. It would be up to you whether or not to resolve those issues though so, for the water heater flush alone, you can expect it to be in that range.
For other types of water heater, the price may go up a little. Tankless water heaters might not seem like they need flushing, but they do and it will cost a little more. Flushing a tankless water heater involves draining what water there is in the system and then running a continuous flow through the system for some time. This takes longer than flushing a conventional water heater, so the price goes up. You can expect to pay between $150 and $200 on average, but generally tankless heaters will need less regular flushing.
While there are lots of things that will change how often you need to flush your water heater or how much it will cost, one thing is certain – you need to do it. Water heater flushing is just one of those little things you need to stay on top of for home maintenance. Given the low cost and potential for bigger issues to arise, maintaining a minimum of an annual water heater flushing schedule is probably a good idea for most homes. So don’t wait for your water heater to start having problems before you call a plumber. If it’s been a while, schedule a water heater flushing today!