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Drain bucketful of water occasionally or install softener

QuestionSeven or eight years ago we switched from an electric furnace and water heater to a gas furnace and water heater. I've done no maintenance to the water heater. Is there something I should be doing—lubrication, cleaning, etc.?

AnswerYes, your tank does need regular maintenance, especially if you have hard water. As the tank heats the water, calcium and magnesium precipitate out and settle to the bottom. However, regular flushing helps to prevent sediment buildup.

I recommend that you drain a bucket of water from your gas water tank every other month and those with electric units should drain a couple of buckets. This simple procedure can remove sediment from the bottom of the tank, sediment that absorbs heat energy and causes your water heater to require more fuel.

Because gas units have the drain valve situated higher than on electric tanks, you will be able to actually get a small bucket underneath it. Those with electric tanks will have to attach a garden hose to the drain valve and then either run the hose outside or into a bucket. In both cases, turn off the water supply before draining; it's important to open the hot side of a household faucet (preferably one nearest the tank) to let air into the water tank to help it drain properly. If it's an electric tank, turn off the power, and don't forget to turn the power back on when you're finished.

Another way to deal with hard water is to install a water softener on the branch water line that goes to the water heater. A water softener helps to prevent scale from forming on the insides of pipes, water heaters, and teapots.

For a small-scale idea of what the bottom of your water tank looks like, look inside a teapot that's been in use for some time. The white scaling you see on the bottom is calcium or magnesium buildup. Another benefit from a water softener is that it prevents sticky soap scum from forming on the insides of bathtubs and shower walls. It also increases the soap's ability to lather, and a shower just feels better when water has gone through a softening system.

A plumbing permit is required to install a water softener, and an electrical permit will be required if a new electrical outlet must be installed.

Additionally, consider a whole-house water filtration system installed on the main line before the water softener. This system is primarily designed to filter out dirt, rust, sand, chlorine, and other dangerous chemicals, but it also helps with scale buildup and dirt sediment. Depending on the unit you select, a permit may be required; check with your building department.

Copyright © 2004, 2006, & 2008 LAF/C.R.S., Inc. All rights reserved.
Question answered by Leon A. Frechette.



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