If you've recently purchased an existing home, it's time to give your hot water heater some much-needed maintenance. With an existing home, you have no way of knowing how well the water heater was maintained. Here are four steps that will help you avoid problems with your water heater.

Schedule an Inspection

If your home purchase didn't include an extensive inspection of all the operating systems, the first thing you need to do is schedule a water heater inspection. Your HVAC contractor will need to come out and give your water heater a top-to-bottom inspection to catch any problems that might exist. The last thing you want is to have your water heater rupture, which can happen with damaged or outdated tanks.

Secure the Safety Strap

If your water heater didn't come with a safety strap, you need to install one as soon as possible. If you don't live in earthquake country, you might think that you don't need one. Unfortunately, that's not actually true. Earthquakes have been known to happen in a variety of places, which means you need to be prepared for the possibility. In an earthquake, your water heater can fall over, allowing scalding water to escape into your home. You can avoid that risk by ensuring that your water heater is secured to the wall with a safety strap. If your water heater came with a safety strap, make sure it's secured tightly.

Replace the Insulation Blanket

Once you've had your water heater inspected and you've installed the safety strap, you'll need to move on to the insulation blanket. A good insulation blanket will help extend the life of your water heater and reduce your energy bills. If your water heater already has a blanket in place, give it a thorough inspection. If you see signs of damage, it's time for a replacement. If your water heater didn't come with one, you'll need to invest in one.

Install a Water Treatment System

If you have hard water coming into your home, now's the time to install a water treatment system. Hard water can wreak havoc on your plumbing, especially your water heater. Over time, the minerals contained in hard water will build up in your water heater tank. As they break free, you'll begin to hear loud popping and crackling sounds coming from your tank. That's the sound of mineral deposits hitting the sides of your hot water tank. Eventually, those deposits could lead to cracks and ruptures inside the tank. A water treatment system will reduce the effects of hard water on your plumbing and protect your water heater. As an added benefit, your water treatment system will also help you save money on your household detergents and help your skin feel softer.