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Steps for Tankless and Traditional Water Heater Maintenance

Regular and proper maintenance is the key to maximizing the efficiency of your water heater and ensuring you have hot water when you need it. Whether tankless or traditional tank-style, water heaters will succumb to age much sooner when they are not properly maintained.


Tankless Water Heater Maintenance

Tankless water heaters should be flushed annually to remove lime-scale build up from the elements of the unit. In order to flush your tankless water heater you need:

  • An owner’s manual
  • A five-gallon bucket
  • A sump pump
  • Two gallons of white vinegar
  • Two short hoses
  • **Kits can be purchased on

A more detailed step by step guide for flushing your tankless water heater is available here, but it is a simple process:

1) Turn off the power to your unit
2) Pour 2 gallons of undiluted white vinegar into your bucket
3) Close the valves to the gas line, the inlet water, and the output hot water
4) Attach one end of the hose to the outlet of the tankless unit and place other end of the hose in bucket
5) Release outlet pressure with pressure-release valve
6) Attach hose between outlet of sump pump and tankless inlet
7) Allow vinegar to pump through unit for approximately 45 minutes
8) Check inline filter above water inlet. Clean out sediment (unless it is time to replace filter).

Your owner’s manual will have specific instructions for your particular unit.


Traditional Tank-style Water Heater Maintenance

Traditional water heaters require considerably more maintenance than tankless units. You should flush your water heater tank at least once or twice a year.

  • Turn off the electricity and allow the unit time to cool
  • Attach a hose to the faucet near the base of the unit and drain several gallons of water into a five-gallon bucket.
  • If there is an excessive amount of sediment in the bucket, you should allow the tank to refill and repeat the process.

In addition to flushing the system:

  • Periodically test the pressure release valve by carefully lifting the lever. **If you have never tested the pressure release valve, call a plumber first, as testing it could actually result in damage to your unit.
  • Check the sacrificial anode rod. This anode is made of magnesium or aluminum and meant to prevent rust in your tank by being consumed itself. After draining a few gallons from the tank, use a 1 1/16th inch socket to unscrew the rod from the tank. If it is less than ½ of its thickness, it will need to be replaced.
  • Wrapping your water heater’s storage tank with an insulating blanket will help reduce the amount of energy that is lost by storing and maintain hot water.

Plumber at work

When choosing a new water heater, maintenance and anticipated lifespan are key concerns for homeowners. Traditional water heaters are less expensive to purchase and install; however, well-maintained tankless water heaters last almost twice as long as tank-style units.

If you are considering a new water heater, we recommend tankless water heaters for anyone with access to natural gas and plans to live in their home for at least five years. In the meantime, make sure your tankless or traditional water heater is properly and regularly maintained.