One of the most overlooked and often neglected appliances in your home is the hot water heater. Most of us forget it exists tucked away in a disused corner of our garage or utility room, that is until it fails. A failing hot water heater not only makes for a miserable time in the shower but can flood your home if the pressure valve fails or sediment build-up causes the tank to crack.

These are some simple steps you can take to extend the life of your hot water heater:

1. Flush it! The best way to keep your water heater in great shape is to regularly flush it out. This should be done every six to 12 months. If you don’t flush it out regularly, limescale will build up and prevent your unit from heating properly. Accumulated sediment can also prevent the hot water from properly flowing out of your tank, which can result in water that doesn’t feel like it’s getting hot enough or even a low flow of hot water.

• Before you start, make sure to turn off your water heater at the breaker panel and turn off your cold water supply. If you have a gas water heater, turn off the gas at the source.

• Connect a garden hose to the water heater drain outlet near the base and place the other end of the hose near a floor drain, outdoors or in a large bucket.

• Flush sediment from the bottom of the heater by opening the drain spigot and allowing the water to flow until it runs clear. Turning on a hot water tap in your house to allow air into the unit will help this process. This should take 20 to 25 minutes total.

2. If you have a hybrid water heater, there will be a filter on top of the heat pump that needs to be replaced every few months. If you have a reusable filter, you can simply clean by washing it with mild detergent and water. Dry it and place it back in the heat pump.

3. The hybrid heater also contains a condensate drain that removes water from the air. At least once a year, pour a cup of distilled vinegar in the access opening of the condensate drain to kill any algae, mold or mildew build up. This is a similar process to maintaining the drain line of your HVAC, so timing this maintenance together may help you remember.

4. The temperature pressure relief valve (TPR) is an important mechanism that keeps your water heater and your home safe by releasing built up pressure from the heater. At least once a year, lift and release the lever handle on the temperature pressure relief valve, located on the side of the water heater, to make certain the valve operates freely.

• Again, shut off the power and the cold-water supply valve.

• Place a bucket under the pipe connected to the temperature-pressure-release (TPR) valve on the top or side of the tank.

• Lift the valve’s tab to let some water out, then let go. If no water is released when triggering this tab, it means the valve isn’t working properly and should be replaced by a licensed plumber.

For easy to follow guidance on necessary hot water heater maintenance, check out this video from The Home Depot.