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Water heaters are an indispensable part of most households, providing the luxury of hot water at the twist of a tap. However, despite their prevalence, misconceptions abound regarding their maintenance. Proper understanding can be the difference between a well-functioning unit and unexpected cold showers. Let’s debunk some of these myths and misconceptions about water heater maintenance.

1. “Maintenance-free” Models Require No Attention

Many modern water heaters advertise themselves as “maintenance-free.” While it’s true these models might have advanced features that reduce the frequency of upkeep, no appliance is truly maintenance-free. Periodic checks are essential to ensure the unit’s longevity and optimal performance.

2. Draining the Tank Annually is Enough

While it’s a good practice to drain your water heater tank annually to remove sediment, this alone doesn’t constitute complete maintenance. Other vital tasks include checking the pressure relief valve, inspecting the heating element (in electric heaters), and ensuring the pilot light (in gas heaters) is functioning correctly.

3. All Water Heaters Have the Same Maintenance Needs

Tankless water heaters, heat pump water heaters, and traditional tank models all have different maintenance requirements. For instance, tankless models might require more frequent descaling due to mineral build-up. It’s essential to follow the manufacturer’s guidelines specific to your unit type.

4. A Noisy Heater is a Failing Heater

While unusual noises can indicate issues like sediment build-up, it doesn’t always signify a failing unit. Sometimes, the solution can be as simple as flushing the tank or adjusting the heating element. However, persistent sounds should not be ignored and warrant a professional inspection.

5. Sediment Build-up is Only a Hard Water Problem

It’s a common belief that only homes with hard water face sediment issues. While hard water can lead to more mineral deposits, even soft water contains trace minerals. Over time, these can settle at the tank’s bottom, reducing heating efficiency. Regular flushing is essential, irrespective of water hardness.

6. If Hot Water is Flowing, Everything is Fine

Just because you’re receiving hot water doesn’t mean your heater is in perfect condition. Issues like partial sediment build-up or minor leaks might not manifest immediately in the water’s temperature but can lead to bigger problems if left unaddressed.

7. DIY Maintenance is Just as Good as Professional Service

While there are many DIY maintenance tasks homeowners can perform, a professional inspection has its merits. Trained technicians can identify and rectify issues that might be missed in a DIY check, ensuring the unit operates at peak efficiency.

8. An Older Heater Needs More Frequent Maintenance

Age isn’t the sole determinant of a water heater’s maintenance needs. Factors like water quality, usage patterns, and the unit’s design play a pivotal role. While older units might exhibit more wear and tear, following a regular maintenance schedule from the start can ensure even an aged heater functions efficiently.

9. Setting the Thermostat Higher Ensures Faster Hot Water

A common myth is that cranking up the thermostat will heat water faster. In reality, the heating rate remains constant, and a higher setting only increases the water’s final temperature. This not only wastes energy but also poses a scalding risk.

10. Maintenance is Only About Efficiency

While regular upkeep undoubtedly keeps the unit running efficiently, it’s also a matter of safety. Faulty thermostats, malfunctioning pressure relief valves, or gas leaks in gas-powered heaters can pose significant risks. Regular maintenance ensures safe operation alongside efficient performance.

11. Tankless Models Don’t Need Maintenance

Due to their lack of a storage tank, some people believe tankless models require no maintenance. However, components like heating elements, sensors, and flow regulators still need periodic checks and servicing.


Misconceptions about water heater maintenance can lead to reduced efficiency, decreased lifespan, and even potential safety hazards. Educating oneself and adhering to a routine maintenance schedule, tailored to the specific water heater model, is the key to enjoying an uninterrupted hot water supply. And remember, while DIY methods can be beneficial for minor tasks, there’s no substitute for a professional inspection to ensure your water heater remains in prime condition.