How to Maintain the Efficiency of Heating Systems

When your heating system throws a fit, who do you blame?  Or more accurately, what do you blame?  In most instances it is not surprising that many homeowners blame their heating system when they cannot get enough hot water for their bath, dishwashing, or laundry needs among others.

What makes things worse is that many tend to believe myths rather than rely on practical and time-tested solutions.  So how can you maintain the efficiency of your heating system?

Type of System

Water Heater

Is it important to know what type of system you have, or what type of heating system should you buy?  But of course!  This makes the process of preventive maintenance easier and more effective.  So what type of heater do you have?  Does it use one or two elements?  Older systems only have one element while newer ones feature two elements; with one positioned at the top portion and the other at the bottom of the heater.

Most manufacturers maintain a website to make it easier for customers to identify the type of heating system they have.  You can also consult the product manual, if you still have it.  Keep in mind that if the element goes bad, you can be sure that the heating efficiency of your system goes down drastically.

A good rule of thumb to remember when having your heating system installed is to keep a minimum distance of 2 feet around the heater.  This clearance will help maintain the efficiency of the system.  Check the manual to see manufacturer’s recommendation as well.

The Element

volt meter

If you are working with a 2-element heater, how would you know which one is failing?  The easiest way to check is to get a voltmeter or multimeter.  This helps you to check the resistance through the terminals of the element.  Make sure that you remove the element before you check its resistance.  A very high resistance reading is an indication of a bad element; almost negligible resistance is what you want to see.

When you successfully identify the element that is bad, you need to replace it immediately.  When shopping for a replacement element, there are typically 3 common types available; screw, flange, and raised flange.  As its name suggests, the screw type simply screws into the heater.  To use either a flange or raised flange, you need a kit to convert the original socket to a screw type.  This is one of the reasons why very few manufacturers use flange and raised flange type elements.

Another thing to be conscious about when buying a replacement element is its wattage.  Majority of domestic heating units make use of a 4500 watt element with a 30 amp pole breaker, which is wired to the elements to be able to supply 120 volts of electricity.

When buying a replacement you need to get an exact one, right?  That is not the case with heating elements.  You actually have a choice between how and high density elements.  What’s the difference?  Low density elements are durable and efficiently, but a bit pricey.  High density ones are comparatively cheaper, but can create more sediments that can lower the efficient operational life of your heating system.


Do you regularly drain your heating system?  If not, you are missing out on one of the most important ways to keep the efficiency of your unit.  About a quarter of water should be drained from the tank a couple of times every year to make sure that debris and sediment are flushed out of the system.  This also maintains the quiet operation of the heating unit.  Consult your manufacturer’s manual on how to properly drain the system.



When it comes to temperature control, using the right temperature can bring you savings of about 5% for every 10 degrees of reduction.  Setting the thermostat to 120 degrees helps to lower the cost of heating and prevent the possibility of scalding.

The temperature-pressure relief valve should also be checked regularly to make sure that it is functioning properly and does not have any leaks.

There is no question that there are many benefits in maintaining the efficiency of your heating system.  Aside from reducing heat loss by about 45%, you can also lower your heating costs by around 9%.  So follow these tips and you will never go wrong.  If possible, have a licensed professional plumber such as www. check your heating system at least twice a year.