Comprehensive Water Heater Maintenance Guide 2023

Regular maintenance is essential to extend the life of your water heater and prevent future problems. In this guide, we’ll provide a step-by-step process for properly maintaining your standing pilot water heater.

Water Heater Maintenance

Tools and Materials Required

Before you begin, gather the following tools and materials:

  • Garden hose
  • Bucket
  • 1 & 1/16th inch socket
  • Half-inch drive socket wrench
  • Breaker bar
  • Screwdriver
  • Needle nose pliers
  • Wire brush
  • Teflon tape
  • Multi-use cleaning brush

Step 1: Prepare for Maintenance

  1. Turn off the gas supply, making it perpendicular to the pipe.
  2. Set the water heater to the pilot setting and turn off the gas control.
  3. Shut off the cold water supply.
  4. Be cautious as the water inside the tank is hot.

Step 2: Check for Leaks

  1. Inspect the inlet and outlet pipes for any leaks.
  2. Examine the pressure and temperature relief valve for water weeping around threads or the valve body.
  3. Inspect the drain valve for leaks. If you see any, consider replacing it.

Step 3: Ensure Proper Airflow

  1. For standing pilot water heaters, check for good airflow at the bottom of the tank.
  2. Clean the flame arrestor screen using a multi-use brush to prevent backdrafting.

Step 4: Test the Pressure and Temperature Relief Valve

  1. Place a bucket below the drain tube.
  2. Lift the lever to drain several gallons of water.
  3. Ensure the valve closes completely; replace it if it doesn’t.

Step 5: Drain and Flush the Tank

  1. Open a hot water faucet in the house to relieve pressure.
  2. Place a bucket under the drain valve.
  3. Open the valve to drain several gallons of water.
  4. Leave most of the water in the tank to prevent it from sliding around.

Step 6: Inspect and Replace the Anode Rod

  1. Locate the anode rod, which may be under a plastic cover.
  2. Use a breaker bar or copper pipe for added torque to unscrew the rod.
  3. Remove the anode rod with needle nose pliers.
  4. Check for changes in the rod each year. Replace it if it’s corroded or encased in calcium.
  5. Clean the threads with a wire brush and apply Teflon tape in a clockwise direction.
  6. Hand-tighten the nut and then use a socket to secure it.

Step 7: Deep Flush the Tank

  1. Connect a garden hose to the drain valve.
  2. Open the valve to drain all the water.
  3. Turn on the cold supply for 20 seconds to agitate and lift sediment.
  4. Repeat 4-5 times until the draining water is clear.
  5. Open the cold water supply to fill the tank, ensuring the air is removed.
  6. For electric water heaters, turn on the power at the breaker.
  7. For gas water heaters, turn on the gas and relight the pilot.


By following these steps, you can maintain your water heater effectively and keep it running.

Here are some key takeaways to remember:

  • Regular maintenance should be performed at least once a year.
  • Always turn off the gas supply, pilot setting, and cold water supply before starting any maintenance tasks.
  • Inspect for leaks in the inlet and outlet pipes, the pressure and temperature relief valve, and the drain valve.
  • Ensure good airflow by cleaning the flame arrestor screen at the bottom of the tank.
  • Test the pressure and temperature relief valve to verify its proper functioning.
  • Drain and flush the tank to remove sediment buildup.
  • Check and replace the anode rod as needed, typically every 4-6 years.
  • Use Teflon tape to seal the threads when installing a new anode rod.
  • Perform a deep flush of the tank to eliminate sediment and maintain water quality.
  • Reconnect the power or gas supply according to your water heater type.


With regular maintenance, your water heater will continue to provide hot water efficiently and reliably. Remember to consult your water heater’s manual for specific maintenance instructions and safety guidelines, as different models may have unique requirements.