How to Drain Your Water Heater: A Step-by-Step Guide
Tank water heaters are a reliable way to secure a fast supply of hot water for your home. The addition of a storage tank ensures some hot water is readily available. But over time, foreign substances can accumulate inside the storage tank. This could be sediment or mineral buildup coming from the main water line or a flaw in the pipes. Whatever the source is, this buildup will sometimes lower the efficiency of water heaters. In severe cases it can plug up drainage and may even result in premature failure.
Fortunately, draining your water heater and removing sediment buildup is a relatively simple task. A certified plumber in the U.S. can handle the process, but you can also drain the tank yourself if you know what you’re doing. Either way, draining the tank now can help lower the risk you’ll need premature water heater replacement.
Before You Begin…
Before you start draining the tank, you should shut off the cold water supply. The supply valve connects your water heater with the main water line. Unless you have access to a well (and you might need to drain the tank more often if you do), the water main delivers all the potable water your home uses. Keeping the valve closed will prevent more water from flowing into the tank, allowing you to completely empty it.
You’ll also want to have a rubber hose, like one you can use for yard work. The hose allows you to safely drain the water heater tank without spilling water in your garage, utility closet, attic or wherever the water heater is stored. Make sure you place the other end of the hose far away from your home to prevent the water from flowing back inside.
Finally, a screwdriver should help you loosen stubborn screws or valves. You shouldn’t need any more tools than this unless you come across a problem with the water heater or adjacent piping. At that point, it may be best to call a certified plumber in the U.S..
Step 1: Shut Off the Water Heater
After you’ve turned off the water supply, you can shut off the water heater itself. This should be on the thermostat for natural gas water heaters or through a breaker switch for electric models. The pilot setting on gas water heaters can remain on during flushing, but electric models must be completely off. This is because of the heating elements electric water heaters use, which remain submerged. In a drained tank, they can quickly overheat. You should also check the model’s manual, as some water heaters need to be completely full before the heating elements are reactivated.
Even after you’ve shut off the water heater, you’ll have to wait for the water stored in the tank to cool down. It could be hours before the water cools to a safe temperature, so it is often best to leave the rest of the process for the following day.
Step 2: Secure the Hose to the Water Heater’s Drain Valve
Tank water heaters have a drain valve you can use to empty the storage tank. Once you’re certain the water supply is disconnected and the water heater itself is off, locate the drain valve. Some models will have it covered up. Make sure the hose is secure to prevent spilling hot water near you and the water heater.
Step 3: Open a Faucet or Other Hot Water Tap
Your home’s plumbing uses pressure within the piping to maintain a consistent flow of water from the main water line to the rest of the house. This pressure needs to be relieved before the hot water can actually flow from the tank. By heading to the nearest faucet or spigot, you’ll alleviate the pressure inside the piping. All you have to do is open the hot water tap to relieve the pressure before returning to the water heater.
Step 4: Release the Drain Valve
Don’t forget that this water may still have some residual heat. Open the drain valve and allow all the water to drain from the tank. This should pull sediment buildup out of the tank and away from your home. But some buildup may be stuck to the inside of the tank. Turning the cold water supply back on will help wash away stubborn minerals and other substances from the tank.
Repeat this step until the water appears free of sediment or minerals. If the drain isn’t working because of an obstruction, a trained plumber may be required.
Step 5: Re-Shut the Valve Before Refilling the Water Heater
If everything proceeds normally, you should be able to clear out most excess sediment hiding inside your water heater. Close the drain valve, detach the hose and open the water supply to get things working again. As the water heater tank begins to fill, head back to the hot water tap you opened. Once cold water starts to flow, you know the pressure is back where it needs to be.
At this point, you can open the gas valve or flip the breaker switch back on. Like we mentioned before, don’t forget that some models may need to be entirely full before the water can be safely heated. Make sure you look through your manufacturer’s instructions before starting the process.
Keep Your Water Heater Sediment-Free for Best Results
Tank water heaters are still a great option for supplying your hot water needs. Draining the tank every 1-2 years will help remove sediment buildup and keep things running at maximum efficiency. If you think your water heater is past the point of efficient heating, consider looking for water heater replacement in the U.S. from a technician you trust.
How to Re-Light a Home Water Heater Pilot Light
When you walk into the shower, you expect the water to get nice and hot fast. If an icy shower greets you instead, you know something’s amiss. The typical reason behind this uncomfortable, chilly surprise is a water heater pilot light that’s gone out. Don’t worry—relighting a water... Continue reading
7 Common Causes of No Hot Water
If you’re reading this, it’s likely because you just had a shockingly cold shower or turned on the faucet and there wasn’t any hot water. It’s an annoying scenario, but don’t stress. Learning the most frequent things that leave you with no hot water is the first step toward finding a... Continue reading
What Are the Advantages of a Heat Pump Water Heater?
Heat pump water heaters, also referred to as hybrid water heaters, are an innovative and earth-friendly solution that might be well suited for your household’s hot water needs. Delve into the inner workings of these fascinating systems and explore their pros and cons to help you decide if a heat... Continue reading