Water Heater Safety Components You Need to Know
Your water heater is one of the most important appliances in your home. If it isn’t working properly, it can be a serious problem for you and your family.
First, turn off the power to your heater at the circuit breaker in the service panel. Then, remove the access panel, insulation, and plastic safety guard from each of the heating elements. Contact Denver Water Heater Repair for professional help.
The anode rod attracts corrosive minerals from the water in your heater tank, protecting the interior lining. This sacrificial component wears down quickly, however, so it needs to be replaced regularly to continue performing its service. A plumber will check the anode rod during a routine water heater inspection, but you should also look for signs that it is nearing the end of its lifespan. These include a foul odor, rust spots on the tank, and pooling water at the bottom of the unit.
Before you attempt to replace the anode rod yourself, consult your owner’s manual for detailed instructions. You’ll need to shut off the water and power supply, drain a few gallons of water from the hot water outlet on the tank, and have at least 44 inches of clearance above the water heater to access it (Photo 1). The anode rod may be capped with a plastic cap or covered by a hex head locked in place with a hex wrench. If it is frozen in place with corrosion, spray the hex head with a penetrant such as WD-40 or grease to loosen it. Be careful not to overtighten the rod; you only want to tighten it enough to achieve metal-to-metal contact with the tank.
Most traditional anode rods are made of magnesium, but they are also available in aluminum and zinc/aluminum models. A specialist can help you select the best type of anode rod for your water conditions. The type you choose will affect how quickly it wears out and how long it lasts. If you are concerned about the rotten egg smell of sulfur bacteria, for example, a plumber can switch your anode rod to a zinc/aluminum model that will combat the odor by killing the bacterial colonies that produce it. If you want your water to taste better, an anode rod containing aluminum can also help. These models are available at most hardware and home centers. Some even come in a flexible design with short segments that snap together like tent poles. These are a great choice if you don’t have much clearance above the water heater.
The dip tube is a vital part of your hot water system. It helps the water to flow into and out of your tank, and it plays a role in determining your hot water temperature. When it breaks, you may notice insufficient hot water or find pieces of plastic clogging your faucets and shower nozzles.
Because they are constantly submerged in water of varying temperatures and acidity, dip tubes erode over time. However, they are relatively inexpensive and easy to replace. Investing in a replacement dip tube can significantly improve the lifespan of your hot water heater.
To replace a dip tube, first turn off the circuit breaker that delivers power to your water heater. Then, disconnect the cold water supply line at the top of your hot water tank. Then, remove the short piece of pipe threaded at both ends that exposes your dip tube. Use a flat screwdriver to loosen the inlet nipple and pull out the old dip tube.
When putting in a new dip tube, wrap the inlet nipple with plumber’s tape to seal any possible leaks. Then, insert the replacement and push it all the way in until it is flush with the inlet port. A curved dip tube will typically have a mark on it indicating the direction that its curve is supposed to point. Be sure that it’s pointing away from the drain valve.
Once a year, test your water heater for sediment. Take a small sample of the sediment and put it in a bowl of vinegar. If the particles float, they are plastic; if they dissolve, they are sediment. This is a good indication that it’s time to replace your dip tube. If your sediment levels aren’t too high, though, your dip tube probably isn’t causing any problems. A professional should be able to help you determine whether the dip tube is the cause of your hot water problems or if another issue is at play. If the latter is the case, a professional plumber should also be able to help you fix it.
The pressure valve is another crucial piece of water heater safety equipment that’s often overlooked by homeowners. It’s designed to pop open when the temperature and pressure inside your tank reach unsafe levels, thereby discharging hot water and steam down through a discharge tube. This is why it’s important to put a pan below your water heater to catch slow drips and the occasional emergency outflows of water.
When a T&P valve is working correctly, it’s not likely to leak at all. However, if it’s leaking, then it should be replaced as soon as possible to avoid dangerous water damage and possible explosions. The most common problems with T&P valves are that they either leak continuously or stick and fail to open when needed.
To test your valve, first shut off the water and power to the water heater, then place a bucket under the discharge tube. Next, locate the metal lever on the top of the valve and pull it slightly so that a small amount of water (about a quarter cup) is released into your bucket. If it’s leaking, you need to call a plumber right away to replace the valve.
It’s also a good idea to test your valve at least once per year, even if it seems to be functioning normally. Doing so will help to flush out any mineral deposits and sediment that could cause the valve to fail in the future.
During testing, be sure to wear closed-toe shoes and avoid standing directly over the discharge tube as it’s filling with hot water. Depending on the severity of your water heater problem, you may also want to shut off the main gas line to the water heater before performing this test. Ideally, the discharge tube should be positioned so that it extends downward into a floor drain in your mechanical room. This will prevent any potential leaks from flooding your home in the event that the T&P valve does in fact pop open due to excessive pressure. The drainpipe should also be made of heat-resistant material and have a tamperproof adapter installed on it to deter anyone from plugging the valve or altering it in any way.
The thermocouple is a vital safety component for gas-powered water heaters. It works to detect if the pilot light is burning, and if not it will close off the gas valve. It can also detect if the pilot is out and will relight it to keep the flame alive. If the thermocouple goes bad, the pilot will never be able to ignite again and the gas valve will not remain open, which means that you will not have hot water.
Thermocouples are made from two wires, one of which is insulated from the other with a different material. This is because the metals used in these types of sensors can react differently to heat and generate a voltage that can be detected. Using the wrong type of insulation can cause these wires to not work properly. This is why it is important that these wires are not exposed to any other conductive materials, which can alter the voltage and change the reading.
If the sensor wires are exposed, they can easily be touched by a bare hand and become contaminated with dirt and other contaminants. This can then affect the temperature reading and cause a false reading. Thermocouples are a very fragile part of the water heater, and it is always best to call for professional help.
The easiest way to replace a thermocouple is to remove the gas line, and then use a screwdriver to remove the access cover on the gas supply tube. Once this is done, it is easy to disconnect the copper lead from the thermocouple and then remove the old thermocouple from the pilot bracket clip. If there is a nut holding the tip of the thermocouple to the pilot bracket, remove it and then slide the new thermocouple into place.
Thermocouples are available at most home improvement and plumbing supply centers. You can also purchase a universal thermocouple, which may be more affordable than a specific one for your model of water heater. It is important to note that a universal thermocouple will not be covered under warranty, so if it fails, you will need to replace it at your own expense.