There are many easy and efficient methods to help your water heater perform at its best while keeping the repairs under budget. The following tips will be geared towards water heaters in general and we will look specifically at the popular AO Smith Water Heater. In the first section we will discuss purely maintenance and in the second section the troubleshooting process. The third section will deal with replacement parts and prices.
AO Smith Water Heater Maintenance
Maintenance will change depending on what kind of water heater you have. Pay attention to these common maintenance rules:
1. Check the Insulation. Insulation on the thermostats and pipes helps increase the efficiency of your water heater. The thermostats should come with a pre-cut insulation provided by the manufacturer. Insulation comes standard in the AO Smith Water Heaters. Without the insulation on the thermostats they will not regulate temperature properly. Insulation on your pipes and around the water heater itself is optional but it has many great benefits. Buy pipe insulation that wraps around firmly. Make sure to get the correct size. Peel the tape off and stick the ends together. The insulation will help reduce condensation in the summer and keep everything nice and dry. Buy a big insulation blanket to cover the entire water heater itself. Measure it first so you know what size to get. Cut holes where the valves and pipes are. Make sure the insulation is secured with foil tape so it stays together.
2. Check the relief valve. The purpose of the valve is to open when there is too much pressure in the water heater. Grab a bucket and turn off the power. Be sure to shut off the cold water. Then position your bucket beneath the valve. Open the valve and see what comes out. You may need to hit the lever on purpose; if nothing comes out or a lot of water comes out, you may need to replace the valve. You can drain the tank part way and unscrew the valve and put on the new one.
3. Check the anode. Screwed into the top of your water heater is a rod made of a steel core and surrounded by aluminum or magnesium. It is about ¾” thickness new. The rod keeps the inside of the tank from rusting. You will know if you need to replace the rod if it is corroded and covered in calcium. Check the rod by unscrewing it from the top of your tank after letting out a few gallons of water. A 6-year water heater warranty will have one anode rod while a 12-year warranty will have two. So check yours every 4 years or so to see if it needs replacing.
4. Flush the tank. About twice a year you need to flush out your water heater tank. This will prevent sediment from building up and clogging the inside of the tank. It will also guarantee a more efficient performance. In order to empty your tank, turn off the power and shut off the cold water. Be careful about where the water will come out because it may be scalding hot. Open the relief valve and then the drain valve and empty out your tank with a hose or a pipe. To ensure that you are getting out all of the sediment open up the cold water for a few moments. Repeat the process until the water comes out completely clean. When finished shut your valves, refill the tank, and turn the power back on.
5. Adjust the temperature. If you expect to be going away for a few days you should think about turning the temperature down a bit. The temperature should be set to right about 120 but you can turn it down to 110 or a little less. The lower the temperature the more money you will save as well and it will prevent the tank from working harder when you are not around.
6. Keep the area clean. It may seem obvious, but keep clutter to a minimum around your water heater. Reduce the chance of leaks, drips, and dust collection. The cleaner you keep your tank the longer it will last.
AO Smith Water Heater Parts Troubleshooting
Water heaters can be tricky but most come with a manual. In the case of the AO Smith Water Heater there are plenty of service handbooks and manuals to help identify an issue and fix it. AO Smith provides electric and gas water heaters.
The troubleshooting process is crucial to increasing these factors:
- Draw efficiency: amount of hot water available to you, the consumer.
- Thermal efficiency: amount of British thermal units generated which enters the water.
- Standby efficiency: the water heater’s ability to keep heat in the tank.
- Energy factor: combination of the thermal and standby efficiency of the tank. The higher the energy factor the more efficient the tank runs.
- Recovery rate: amount of water heated to a set temperature per hour.
If you notice a general low-performance issue with your water heater, try checking these things first to see if the situation improves:
- Relief valve
- Anode rod
If the issue is still not resolved, it may be an interior electrical issue. It might be best to call an AO Smith representative to help you figure out the problem. However the troubleshooting can be done by you if you are ready to invest some capital in an all-purpose multimeter. This will read voltage and circuit connections. Here are some common complaints when troubleshooting:
- Broken elements. With the meter go ahead and test each element by probing. Proper resistance is +7.5%. If you get that number then test a few more times to make sure it is constant. If your number is 0 then you may need to check your OHM scale setting and replace the element itself. If the number is 1 or off of the scale then you will need to replace the element.
- No hot water. If your tank water is completely cold even though it is on you may have to buy some replacement parts. Test between the upper and lower elements for a voltage count. Just like above, you need to have proper resistance. Also check for leaks in the pipes. You may need to replace the thermostats.
- Water too hot. Using an amperage meter you can check to see if the element is grounded. If there is flowing power you need to replace the element.
- Lack of hot water. Check both upper and lower thermostats to see if the correct voltage is present. If it isn’t, then you will need to replace your thermostat.
- * Leaks. This problem is caused by a number of issues. Here is a list provided by the AO Smith service handbook:
o Excessive water pressure
o Contaminated air
o Soft water
When trying to figure out what is wrong with your Gas AO Smith Water Heater make sure to pay close attention to these two specific parts:
- Control. The control contains the main controls for the gas and can adjust the temperature on your gas water heater.
- Burner. The burner contains the main burner of the water heater as well as your pilot light and flame that is used to ignite the water heater. Tread lightly around these parts.
- Smell of gas: check the pilot and make it is ignited. If there is no flame you need to shut off the gas water heater to avoid a buildup of gas in your home. You can always try re-lighting the pilot yourself, just be careful.
- Sooting: this can be due to oil or blockage in the heater. Try cleaning out the flue first and see if that makes a difference. If that doesn’t work there may be blockage somewhere. Finally, you may have to just replace the flue entirely.
- Condensation: this happens because of cold surfaces or cold water. Avoid this by installing the water heater in a dry place. You can also insulate the heater itself like the electric ones. Buy an insulation blanket. To prevent condensation on the pipes insulate them with special pipe insulation as well. Finally, check the venting. If it’s not the correct size this could also contribute to your condensation problem.
Now you know what to be looking for depending on what kind of water heater you have. Remember that whenever you are checking for these issues to use proper safety procedures. Now that you have diagnosed the problem, you need to buy the replacement parts. Some parts, especially for electric water heaters, are easily bought at local hardware stores. However AO Smith provides replacement parts as well and they can be shipped to your home.
AO Smith Water Heater Parts for Replacement
You can find a number of places to find AO Smith provides a link to their site that finds replacement parts. Connect to waterheaterparts.com and you will be provided with two options to purchase your replacement parts. You can phone or place your order online. If you know exactly what you need you can just look up the part by name on the site. If you are unsure what the part is called that you have in your hand you can just type in the serial number. This will ensure that you always get the same exact parts for your water heater every time.
If you want to try a cheaper option, places like Home Depot and Ace Hardware may have what you are looking for. What makes this more difficult, however, is that you need to know specifics about the part you require. What density and voltage do you need? Here is a list of very general and easy to find items with their prices based off of the Home Depot and Ace Hardware websites:
- Insulation blanket: $20-$30
- Pipe insulation: $2 a roll
- Aluminum anode rod: $20
- Water heater elements: $10-$40
- Thermostat: $9-$20
- Pilot: $27-$40
- Relief valve: $11-18
So there you have it: a quick guide to water heater maintenance, troubleshooting, and replacement parts. Be sure to check if you have a warranty with your AO Smith Water Heater. You might get free parts and labor out of it depending on what your issue is. Just remember, if you don’t have a warranty, go ahead and check the simple things. Hopefully you have learned how to make your water heater more efficient for the future. Enjoy higher performance by your water heater while keeping the cost down. If you need additional help with finding AO Smith Water Heater Parts of general water heater troubleshooting, please Contact Us.