Appliances in our home can often run for years with no problems. Water heaters, for example, can last about a decade, sometimes even longer!To ensure you get maximum life out of your water heater, follow these simple steps to extend longevity and maintain efficiency and safety.The first thing you will want to do is check the Temperature Pressure Relief Valve (TPR valve). The TPR valve will open to relieve pressure from inside the tank when levels get too high, which would cause the tank to explode. You should test your TRP valve monthly as a safety precaution. The valve will be located on the top or side of your tank. To test the valve, lift the tab and water should begin to flow out from the drainpipe. If you see either a slow trickle or no water at all, you will need to replace the valve.Next, check the anode rod, which aids in neutralizing minerals entering the tank, therefore eliminating the possibility of corrosion. Before checking the anode rod, turn the power off. The rod is located at the top of your tank and will require the use of a wrench to remove the rod’s hex head. You will need to replace the rod if it’s coated in calcium or is highly deteriorated.To avoid a potential leak from rust and improve operating efficiency, you will need to drain the tank. The minerals in hard water often cause sediment and sludge to build up at the bottom of your tank, which could lead to rusting and a leak. In order to drain the tank you’ll need a garden hose and a bucket. Attach the garden hose to the drain valve and allow the water to drain into the bucket. To stir up the sediment settled at the bottom of the tank, briefly open the cold-water supply valve. Continue this process until clean water begins to drain, then you may close the drain valve, refill the tank, and turn the power back on.Clean the heating element.For electric heating elements: Completely drain the tank and shut off the water supply. With both the power and water shut off, remove the heating elements from the bottom of the tank and use a vinegar-based solution to remove any buildup in the tank. Put the heating elements back on once they are cleaned.For gas-fueled water heaters: Make sure your gas is shut off and remove the panel. Vacuum out any dust and debris that has built up inside the chamber. To clean the ports of the burner, you can use a wire brush to get to them.Once the heating elements are cleaned, you can turn the power and water back on.If you have a gas-fueled water heater, you will need to also check the flue, located at the top of your tank. Check for small holes or cracks and use foil tape to mend any small imperfections.Lastly, here are some tips to increase your water heater’s efficiency:Adjust the temperate. Turning the temperature down by 10 degrees can save you up to 5% in energy costs!Insulate the pipes. Add insulation to both your hot and cold water pipes with some self-sticking 3/8-inch-foam that can be purchased from your local hardware store. For gas-fueled water heaters: If the pipe is 6 inches or less from the flue, use 1-inch thick fiberglass pipe wrap.Insulate the heater. Cut down an insulated blanket to fit around your water heater, leaving the pipes, TPR valve, and temperature control exposed. Do not cover the top or sides of oil or gas heaters.Performing these maintenance steps annually will ensure that your water heater lives a long and efficient life. If you run into any issues while checking your water heater, please contact your local service provider for additional help. Now, go enjoy a nice, long, hot shower!