Most people have enough to do around the house without having to worry about the extra task of regularly flushing out their water heater manually. Today, we have technology on our side to help. Many modern appliances on the market are self cleaning water heaters which save you the time-consuming job of having to do it yourself.
Of course, no two are the same, so it helps to know what you should be on the lookout for.
What Are Self Cleaning Water Heaters?
Quite simply, these appliances filter out sediment build up in the tank by circulating water throughout it. Reduced build up means that you do not have to flush the system as often yourself. While sediment build up is not completely eliminated in your self cleaning tank, rest assured that the bulk of it is removed.
How Do They Work?
There are numerous features to be found in this appliance, and we’ll work through it slowly to ease your concerns.
Upon opening the water tap, there is a cold water inlet which channels water into the dip tube. The dip tube flows down to the bottom of the tank where it can begin the warm-up process. The water does contain sediment which settles on the tank floor.
Over time, the sediment build up lessens the capability of the heater to heat as usual. This could be extremely infuriating if it is what stands between you and a hot bath. By contrast, self cleaning water heaters are intended to ease the workload for you, making for a steadier stream of warmth at the turn of a tap.
Here’s an overview of what all the components in a self cleaning heater appliance do.
Image courtesy of Rheem Water Heaters
These are a few key components on a self cleaning model which work to keep your appliance running smoothly, and we take a look at these below.
The curved dip tube is the differentiating feature of self cleaning water heaters as opposed to the usual water heater. The interesting thing about this dip tube is the component attached to keep water spinning so the sediment can’t settle. This leaves you with less draining effort when you have to empty the tank.
Self Cleaning System
You will see that the Rheem appliance depicted in the image above sports a patented EverKleen self cleaning system. This is the spinning component that we mentioned earlier. Through generating movement inside the tank, the sediment is reduced and efficiency improved.
Both the drain valve and anode rod serve as protective devices to rid the product of sediment. The drain valve allows the tank to be drained and when it comes time to service the appliance, this should be cleared so as to prevent further layering of harmful particles.
The anode rod has a protective function. The non-corrosive properties of this rode such as the R-tech rode found in the Rheem model above function by drawing damaging particles to it. They stick to the rod which stops them from corroding the appliance’s lining.
Heat Trap Nipples
Just to provide you with some extra assurance, these heat traps serve a delay in curbing corrosion. The check valves inside also serve the purpose of maintaining the heat between the cold water pipes and hot water in the tank. No need to jump out of the spray line of fire in fear of an unexpected cold blast.
Is It Worth Having One?
There are several questions that should be asked before considering whether to buy self cleaning water heaters or not. Before making a decision you should consider the cost, the water holding capacity, model type, warranties, and additional features.
How Much Does One Cost
Now we come to the question always at the forefront of our minds. What sort of budget should we be looking at? Although the initial cost may feel a bit steep on your wallet, their long lifespan of between 8-12 years will make it all worth your while.
The State Industries GPX50YXRT-200 50 is a residential natural gas make. Valued at $1,522, you can trust that the cost is absolutely worth it when you consider how long it will last. Crafted by State Industries, you will be provided with a residential water heater of commercial heater quality.
With a capacity of 50 gallons, you can rest assured that you won’t run out of hot water any time soon either. Natural gas heaters are also more affordable than electric self cleaning water heaters. If you think about it, the time you spend on cleaning could also be counted as a saving of sorts. You can spend your time doing other constructive things around the house to make it run efficiently.
How Effective Is The Self Cleaning?
Education time! For the next dinner party conversation, we would like to supply you with a did-you-know fact. Calcium carbonate is one of the minerals contained in the water that enters the machine and can build up as sediment over time. High levels of it in water makes it hard water, and this is what causes limescale deposits in your appliance. All the more reason that cleaning is a good idea.
Overall, although not entirely preventable, this appliance reduces sediment build up considerably. Thus, self cleaning water heaters are quite effective in reducing the frequency with which you need to drain and flush.
Cleaning and Maintenance Around the Unit
Maintaining your unit effectively doesn’t just involve the occasional flushing. There are other things you can do to extend its lifespan considerably.
Like most things left for some time, self cleaning water heaters are susceptible to creeping dust particles in the air, particularly when left in a basement or garage.
To ease your concerns my fellow non-cleaners, I can warn you that the job is not highly intensive and only comes about once a year. All that is required is a vacuum to reach the unseen underside of the appliance and the surfaces. The heating elements should also be vacuumed once the heater has been switched off.
Water Heater Elements and Anodes
It’s a good idea to vacuum around the water heater elements too once the heater has been switched off. Keeping the area clear of dirt and dust will help the mechanical parts of your heater appliance to run more efficiently.
Similarly, the anode rod should be frequently checked every few months as it may require replacing. Fortunately, these are not expensive to replace, and you can even opt to get a powered anode which doesn’t need replacing at all.
Regardless of which you buy, be sure to check the rod for corrosion every six months just to be safe.
Flush Heater on Occasion to Prolong Water Heater Life
Self cleaning water heaters require you to flush out the system every three years. Pretty impressive if you consider the relative frequency of a non-cleaning model which needs a flush twice a year.
As one of the most helpful activities you could do to extend the life of your heater, giving it the occasional flush will do. Not only does it last longer, but you’ll also find that it works more smoothly afterward. This is because you can clean out the remaining sediment that the appliance has not been able to remove.
With rust and sediment-free anodes and elements, the appliance can effectively heat to temperature again. Of course, when your appliance is running optimally you save energy and money in the home. It’s a no brainer situation really.
When dealing with hot water, safety is always a concern and we wouldn’t want you to get burned. As such, one recommendation we suggest before flushing is to switch the heater off and wait for the water temperature to drop. Thereafter, you can tentatively open the valve and begin draining the tank. Once it has emptied you can begin working on it.
You can find out more on how to go about this in our post on flushing a hot water heater here.
By flushing the system consistently when you should, you will be able to make your appliance last that much longer. Admittedly, it may feel like a major chore at the time, however, you’ll thank yourself later when you’ve saved the effort of calling a plumber out for repairs or even replacement.
If it does get to the point of replacement though, we do have plenty of buying advice to pass on, you’re in good hands.
If you’re the type of person who is more hands-off or not as DIY orientated as others, self cleaning water heaters can be a great solution for you. They require a lot less maintenance than their standard counterparts, and even though they are priced on the higher side, you will see savings. Because they run more efficiently due to less sediment build up, you can expect to see energy and maintenance savings over the heater’s life span.