The Essential Water Heater Maintenance Checklist

By Mengning Heil

January 28, 2022

Water Heater Tips

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Your water heater is one of the most important yet overlooked appliances in your home. Having a water heater maintenance checklist in place is therefore essential to promoting its longevity—while protecting yourself from an unneeded emergency.

Although water heaters are unseen daily necessities for showering, washing dishes, and cleaning clothes, many take them for granted and neglect regular maintenance. But if your water heater were to fail, you would be unable to complete everyday tasks. You’d need to put everything on hold to address the problem, which could quickly become a disaster.

Avoid the sudden and unexpected frustration of water heater failure by proactively maintaining your water heater. Learning a few basic principles (including quality assessments, how to flush your water heater, and anode rod replacement fundamentals) will help you save time, money, and stress, while adding years of life to your water heater. Read more for our simple—yet vital—water heater maintenance checklist.

Water Heater Maintenance Checklist: To-dos for Homeowners

Tip 1: Determine water heater age

Master plumbers strongly recommend preparing to replace your water heater before it becomes a last-minute emergency. Emergency repairs are always more expensive, and in a pinch, the best professional for the job may not be available for several days. Keep in mind that most water heaters last 10–15 years, depending on your water quality and usage. However, when treating hard water, some heaters survive only 5–7 years.


If you’re unsure of your water heater’s age, it’s important to find out. You can start by looking for the manufacturer’s sticker on the water heater, which should include the date of manufacture. If you can’t find it, another option is to locate the model serial number. By quickly searching the internet for the serial number, you can pinpoint the year your heater was manufactured, which will give you a good idea of when it should be replaced. 

Tip 2: Perform a visual check

A simple visual assessment of your water heater can help you prevent any water heater disasters, including messy flooding issues. Take a close look at all of your water heater parts, including the pipes, pipe joints, and tank. Be sure to look out for any rusting or leakage, paying close attention to the water heater tank—because it often fails first.

If you see any rust on the tank of your water heater, it means the metal that holds water in the unit is deteriorating, which could eventually result in flooding. Keep in mind that leaking water heater tanks should not be repaired, so when the tank disintegrates, it’s time to replace your water heater.

Tip 3: Flush water heater

If you’ve recently replaced your water heater, you should begin regular water heater maintenance to extend its longevity. First, you’ll want to flush your water heater once every year, which involves draining the contents of the heater.

Regularly clearing out water from the heater will help remove any accumulated sediment. But if you haven’t flushed your heater in several years, there may be significant buildup, and only a small portion of debris will come out. That’s why it’s important to learn how to drain a water heater, and to do so on an annual basis.

Anode rod replacement for water heater maintenance checklist

Water Heater Maintenance Checklist: To-dos for Your Plumber

Tip 4: Consider anode rod replacement by an expert

Extending the life of your water heater helps save time and money, and it can avert unexpected emergencies. Another important tip for effective water heater maintenance involves replacing the anode rod, which is made of magnesium, aluminum, or zinc and is located inside the tank of your water heater.

Because tap water slowly eats away at the steel lining of your water heater tank, the anode rod preserves its integrity by attracting corrosive elements to itself. Anode rods are especially important for homeowners with hard water since it contains an abundance of dissolved minerals, including magnesium and calcium, which accelerates the process of decay. The anode rod helps slow down water heater deterioration because the elements are drawn to the rod instead of the tank.

However, anode rods are only effective while they’re in good condition. Therefore, consider replacing the anode rod about once every three years. Anode rod replacement is much more complex than flushing a water heater, so be sure to hire a licensed plumber to complete the task. It’s well worth the investment to protect your water heater from premature degeneration.

Tip 5: Have a professional check the pressure relief valve

Most plumbers agree that checking the temperature and pressure relief (T&P) valve should be high on the list of any water heater maintenance checklist. The T&P valve is a fundamental safety device that prevents excessive temperature and pressure buildup in the tank as it heats water throughout the day.

The T&P valve responds to any excessive buildup by opening, allowing hot water to expand, and releasing any pressure the tank is not designed to hold. Though relatively uncommon, a water heater tank could explode without a properly functioning T&P valve. Some plumbers may suggest that homeowners check the valve themselves, but most master plumbers recommend contacting a professional to properly inspect and maintain the T&P valve.

Are you prepared to avoid a potential water heater emergency? By keeping these maintenance best practices in mind, you’ll not only extend the life of your water heater; you’ll also protect yourself and your home from the unneeded stress of a potentially disastrous water heater situation.

If you’re in need of a reliable plumber in Rockville, MD (or the surrounding areas) for water heater repair or installation, contact Heil Plumbing DMV today.


Heil Plumbing DMV is a family-run company owned by a third-generation master plumber. We can help you with a full range of plumbing services, including toilet installation and repair, leak detection and pipe repair, water heater repair and installation, faucet repair and installation, drain cleaning, water treatment, and more.