How to Drain a Water Heater

Things last longer when they’re taken care of properly. This applies to virtually everything, including your water heater. Your water heater, like most appliances in your home, requires regular maintenance.

One of the most important things that you can do to maintain your water heater is to drain it regularly.

Why You Should Drain Your Water Heater

The main reason that you need to drain your water heater regularly is that over time sediment can build up in the bottom of the water heater. When too much sediment builds up, it can cause your water heater to clog.

Draining your water heater allows all of the built-up sediment to be flushed out, ensuring that your water heater will continue to function properly. The sediment that develops is typically made of minerals and debris.

How to drain your gas water heater 

There are two types of water heaters with tanks - gas and electric. The process of draining a gas versus an electric water heater it's slightly different, so we will begin by breaking down exactly how you can drain a gas water heater.

  1. The gas valve on the water heater needs to be put in the "off" or “pilot”  position. If you turn the valve to the pilot position, the pilot light continues to burn, but know that all gas flow stops when in this position.
  2. You want to let the tank cool for approximately 2 hours because the water inside the tank is typically around 120 degrees Fahrenheit. You reduce the risk of injury to yourself and your lawn by allowing the water to cool before draining.
  3. Now rotate the cold water supply valve to stop water from entering the tank.
  4. There is a spigot at the bottom of the tank and you will want to attach a garden hose to it and then reach your hose outside of the home.
  5. Now that the water can drain outside your home, open the drain valve at the bottom of the tank. You want to allow the tank to drain completely so that all the flakes of mineral deposits are flushed out of the tank. you may find it helpful to turn on a hot water faucet close to the water heater to provide some back pressure and help the tank drain.
  6. Reopen the cold water supply valve to allow fresh water to come into the tank and flush out any remaining sediment and debris. Let the water run for about 10 minutes.
  7. Shut the drain valve, disconnect the garden hose, And keep the hot water tap open while the tank refills. You may hear some air escaping through the tap, this is normal.
  8. Close the tap once a steady stream of water is flowing through the faucet.
  9. It is now time to turn the gas valve back to "on”. Re-light the pilot light if needed. 

How to drain your electric water heater 

Now we will break down the steps required to drain an electric water heater, as it differs from a gas water heater.

  1. Turn off the electricity to the water heater by disabling the circuit breaker or fuse at the electrical panel. 
  2. Turn off the water supply to the water heater via the water shut-off valve at the top of the water tank. If you cannot find the shutoff valve that just controls the water heater, then turn off the main water supply valve.
  3. Locate the drain at the bottom of the water heater tank and either place a bucket under it or attach a garden hose to the valve. If you use a garden hose, run it outside of the home so the water drains outside.
  4. Open the water heater's temperature and pressure valve to relieve the pressure from the tank. It will be located on the top or the side of the water heater.
  5. Allow the water in the water heater to cool for a few hours. You can speed up this process by taking a hot shower.
  6. Once the water has cooled off turn the drain valve so that is open and the water can start to drain.
  7. When all the water has left the water heater close the temperature and pressure valve and close the drain valve.  
  8. Turn the power and water supply back onto the water heater. 

How Often Should the Water Heater be Drained?

It is recommended for homeowners to flush their water heaters every 6 months. If you have extremely hard water, then it may need to be drained more frequently.

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