How Do Self-Cleaning Water Heaters Work?

self-cleaning hot water heater

We may not use our heat year-round, but we certainly use our hot water heaters. From showers to laundry to dishwashers, and more, there’s a lot of water that travels through the water heater tank, and with it comes minerals and impurities. How often you need to clean your tank depends on whether you have a regular water heater or a self-cleaning model.

Here, we shed some light on the difference:

Whether you have an electric water heater or a gas water heater, it will be equipped with a dip tube. The dip tube runs straight down through the middle of the tank and as your cold water flows into the tank, the dip tube carries it to the bottom in order to distribute it properly. Without a dip tube, the water would simply sit at the top of the tank and wouldn’t be heated thoroughly.

Water flows into your water heater on a regular basis, which means that over time, sediment can collect at the bottom of the tank. (Sediment is simply the impurities that are in your water, such as calcium carbonate.) While water heaters are equipped with an anode rod that collects minerals, it’s still a good idea to get rid of other collected sediment by draining it out. Most water heaters come with a drain valve at the bottom of the tank that you can open. This valve will drain the sediment out of the tank (this should be done occasionally to keep the tank clean and operating well).

In a self-cleaning water heater, you’ll find a curved dip tube in the tank instead of a straight one. This dip tube will be equipped with a fitting that swirls the water around instead of simply dispensing it to the bottom. By swirling the water, it keeps the sediment moving and requires less draining.

Hot water heaters can last anywhere from 8-12 years, depending on their make and features. No matter what kind of water heater you own, our water heater installation experts recommend draining 2-5 gallons of water every one to three years to extend the life of your tank.

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