(415) 849-7772 Request Service

How Can I Maintain My Water Heater?

It’s very important to keep the health of your water heater as high as possible to lengthen its life, but how long do water heaters last? The average lifespan of a water heater is between 8 to 12 years, but without regular maintenance, your unit may begin to fail much sooner than that. At Gotelli Plumbing, we know that the term ‘regular maintenance’ may scare some homeowners off, but don’t worry! Maintenance really only has to be done about once a year and consists of only four steps.

Before you do work on your water heater, it’s important to know if you should turn off the unit. Valves can be tested while the unit is running, but flushing the tank requires a complete shutdown. Electric units can be shut off by switching the electrical breaker off. Gas units usually have a temperature dial that can be turned to the off position.

Check Your T&P Valve

The temperature and pressure relief valve (T&P) is a safety mechanism on your tank that senses pressure buildup or excessive temperatures in your unit and automatically opens to relieve pressure. Without this valve, your water heater could be at risk for exploding – it’s best to make sure the valve is operational every year!

The T&P valve is usually located on the side or top of your tank with a tube running down to the bottom of the tank. Locate this tube first.

  • Place a bucket underneath the T&P overflow tube.
  • Open the valve manually by lifting the lever on it. This releases water from the valve, down the tube and into the bucket. This water is very hot, so be cautious!
  • Once the water has run for a few seconds, let the lever go. It should snap back into place. 

If the T&P valve does not release water, continues releasing water after you’ve let go of the lever or begins to leak after the test, the valve must be replaced.

Check Your Anode Rod

The anode rod hangs inside your water heater. It is made of magnesium, which slows down the corrosion and rusting inside your water heater unit. Anode rods do wear out faster than the steel your tank is made of, so a yearly check of your anode rod health is important. It’s much cheaper to replace your anode rod periodically than have to replace your entire water heater.

  • Find the drain valve at the bottom of the tank (it looks like a garden spigot).
  • Attach a hose to the valve and place the end of the hose in a bucket.
  • Open the valve to release a few gallons of water (this may require a flathead screwdriver).
  • Once the water is out, find the top of the water heater where the rod is connected.
  • Use a socket to unscrew the rod.
  • If the rod is less than ½ an inch thick or looks like it’s covered in calcium, replace it.

When inspecting or replacing the anode rod, feel free to contact a plumber for assistance.

Flush Your Water Heater

A water heater flush is used to clear out any built-up sediment on the inside of your tank. If the sediment is allowed to settle to the bottom, it can cause corrosion of the tank over time – it can even eat straight through the tank and cause major leaks! Flushing out the tank once a year prevents the sediment from settling and makes the water heater more efficient. Here are the steps to flushing your tank yourself:

  • After you’ve checked the anode rod, drain the rest of the water out of the drain valve into a large bucket. 
  • Briefly turn on the cold water inlet to allow fresh water to stir up the sediment on the bottom. 
  • Drain the tank again and repeat the process until clean water comes from the drain valve.
  • When you’re finished, close the drain valve.
  • Make sure to refill the tank and turn it back on when you’re done with maintenance.

Mini Flush

Although a complete flush of the water heater tank is best, it does require a complete power shutdown. An alternative solution is to do a mini flush on your tank. It takes less time and can be completed while the unit’s power is on.

  • Place a bucket under the drain valve at the bottom of the tank.
  • Turn the valve counterclockwise (to the left) to drain between one and two gallons of water. (Some drain valves require a flathead screwdriver to make them turn.) This water is very hot, so be cautious!
  • Turn the valve clockwise (to the right) to close it.

If the drain valve won’t open or is leaking when closed, contact a plumber for more assistance.

Check The Temperature

When your water heater was originally installed it was likely preset to 130 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. However, it is actually recommended that your water heater runs at 120 degrees in most households. For every 10 degrees the water heater is lowered, you can expect up to 5% energy savings.

  • A gas water heater has a temperature dial which can be turned down to 120 degrees.
  • An electric heater usually has a small metal panel that covers the thermostat. Make sure the power is still off! Unscrew the panel. 
  • Set the temperature to 120 degrees. Replace the panel and turn the unit back on.
  • Some electric water heaters have an upper and lower thermostat. Make sure to adjust both.


By completing these four steps, your water heater is much more likely to last the full estimated lifespan. It will also run more efficiently and save you money on energy bills. If you feel uncomfortable performing any of the maintenance listed above, Gotelli Plumbing is happy to complete it for you. As the best San Rafael water heater maintenance company, we are always eager to help you keep your water heater in the best shape possible! Contact us today.

Why Choose Gotelli Plumbing?

5-star customer service
Customer Focused
Our goal is to give every customer the best plumbing service available. Our technicians are professional and well-trained to make sure we achieve that goal.
family owned business
Family-Owned and Operated
We're a family-run business living and working in Marin County, so treating our neighbors like family is the center of our values.
sewer services
Reliable Service
Our technicians are background checked and trained in the latest plumbing advancements to ensure you get the service your home or business deserves.

What Our Customers Say

Very Professional

Very professional, very accommodating and very successful unclogging solution to our plumbing emergency. Many thanks!

Michael M.

Fast and Efficient

It was great working with Sam S! He’s fast and efficient. He found the problem in a matter a few short minutes. Then he had the part delivered to our home. Thank you!!!

Stephen S.

Courteous and Thorough

Cory was very professional, courteous, thorough, and fixed the problem. Also, the women I spoke with on Friday morning was also very courteous and accommodating . 5 stars for sure!!!

Chris H.

Pleasant Attitude

Cory came out to inspect a questionable smell from under my house and quickly was able to identify the source – a decomposing rat that my pest control guy was on able to locate after three previous visits! Thank you Cory for your fast and efficient service and a pleasant attitude!

Rebecca C.

Quick Response Time

The response from Gotelli Plumbing was excellent. The next time Tom arrived right on time and the quality of his work was outstanding. When he finished he walked me through everything he had done and I could not have been more pleased with the results. I’m so thankful to have such professionals available when need and on such short notice.

Raymond R.

Excellent Service

Tom provided excellent service. He is obviously experienced- and quickly solved the problem. Our gas had to be shut off, so we were without our stove to cook, furnace to heat and hot water. Our home is happy again!

Keith B.

Superb Service

Tom of Gotelli Plumbing provided superb service for us in replacing a very balky tub spout, and worn out toilet parts. Not only was he extremely professional and thorough but he was able to answer all my questions concerning the service. I would give 6 stars if I could.

Edward D.

Always on Time

Tom has worked on numerous plumbing issues in our home over the years. He’s always on time, polite, hard working and an excellent plumber overall. I strongly recommend Tom R. for any plumbing jobs you need! We’ll continue to use Tom for all our future plumbing problems. Thanks!

Rachel C.

Fantastic Service

Fantastic service from Steve, who came to our home on time, surveyed the issue, and came back to fix the problem – all with a smile.

Bill D.

Great Experience

I had a great experience with Gotelli Plumbing when we needed a leak in a pipe fixed. Tom was professional and friendly. He also got the job done faster than original estimated, so the work was less expensive than I anticipated. I will use Gotelli Plumbing again in the future.

Kendall F.

Affordable Pricing

Water heater died just in time for Thanksgiving company to arrive. Gotelli sent Joey out first thing this morning. Not only was Joey a super nice guy, he fixed our heater quickly and for $450 less than a competitors bid. Will be going to these guys for all of our plumbing needs in the future!

Becky R.

Fabulous Attention to Detail

Fabulous attention to detail…every decision is made with first rate materials. No cutting corners…great customer service!!

Sherri C.