Tank water heaters are a reliable way to secure a fast supply of hot water for your home. The presence of a storage tank ensures some hot water is readily available. But over time, other substances may build up within the storage tank. This might be sediment or mineral buildup getting in from the main water line or a crack in the pipes. Whatever the source is, this buildup will sometimes reduce the efficiency of water heaters. In severe cases it can plug up drainage and might even cause premature failure.
Thankfully, 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 on your own if you know what you’re doing. Whatever you choose, draining the tank now can help minimize the risk you’ll need premature water heater replacement.
Before you start draining the tank, you’ll want to 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 frequently if you do), the water main provides all the potable water your home uses. Keeping the valve shut will prevent more water from reaching the tank, allowing you to completely drain it.
You’ll also want to have a rubber hose, like one you would 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 put the other end of the hose far away from your home to keep the water from seeping back inside.
Finally, a screwdriver should help you loosen tight screws or valves. You shouldn’t need any more tools than this unless you discover a problem with the water heater or adjacent piping. At that point, it might be best to call a certified plumber in the U.S..
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 via a breaker switch for electric models. The pilot setting on gas water heaters can continue to stay on during flushing, but electric models need to be completely off. This is due to the heating elements electric water heaters use, which remain submerged. In an empty tank, they may quickly overheat. You should also find the model’s manual, as some water heaters must be completely full before the heating elements are turned on.
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 may be hours before the water reaches a safe temperature, so it is usually best to leave the rest of the process for the following day.
Tank water heaters are designed with 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, go ahead and find the drain valve. Some models might have it covered up. Make sure the hose is secure to prevent spilling hot water near you and the water heater.
Your home’s plumbing uses pressure inside the piping to sustain 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 release 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.
Don’t forget that this water could 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 might 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 clear of sediment or minerals. If the drain isn’t working because of an obstruction, a trained plumber is likely required.
If everything proceeds like it’s supposed to, you should be able to clear out most excess sediment hiding inside your water heater. Retighten the drain valve, detach the hose and open the water supply to get things flowing again. As the water heater tank starts to fill, return to the hot water tap you opened. Once cold water starts to flow, you know the pressure is back at appropriate levels.
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 totally full before the water can be safely heated. Make sure you check your manufacturer’s instructions before starting the process.
Tank water heaters are still a great option for supplying your hot water needs. Draining the tank every 1-2 years will help clear out 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.
If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance it’s because you just had a breathtakingly cold shower or turned on the faucet and there wasn’t any hot water. It’s an irritating state of affairs, but don’t stress. Learning the most frequent things that leave you with no hot water is... Continue reading
Your faucets, showerheads and plumbing appliances use lots of hot water. In fact, the Department of Energy says that water heating is the second-largest utility cost behind space heating and cooling, accounting for approximately 18% of your monthly bill. Find out more about how much energy an... Continue reading
If you have a tankless water heater, then you know that it will run hot and cold on occasion. This is because tankless water heaters are made to run without any delays as they heat water. It’s not uncommon for tankless heaters to be running on high one second and low the next. The problem... Continue reading
© 2023 Service Experts, Service Experts Heating & Air Conditioning, and the Service Experts logo and design are registered trademarks of Service Experts LLC and used under license by SE Canada Inc. All Rights Reserved. *Not applicable to the Advantage Program. See your signed Advantage Program Agreement for full details and exclusions. 100% Satisfaction Guarantee is subject to certain restrictions and limitations as set forth in the applicable Terms and Conditions.