How to Drain a Water Heater

For those well-versed in water heater maintenance, it’s common knowledge that routine upkeep is crucial to ensure maximum efficiency and lifespan. Among these tasks, regularly draining your unit is particularly important. However, determining the ideal timing for this task can be a challenge. We’ll discuss how to drain a water heater. I like to think of draining a water heater as changing your car’s oil. You don’t want to wait until something breaks to take action. Instead, you follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for routine maintenance.

For most standard tank-style heaters, experts suggest draining and flushing every 6 months to 1 year. If you have hard water, aim for every 3-4 months.

The goal is to remove any solid deposits and sediment accumulating at the tank’s bottom over time. Kind of like cleaning out an hourglass – you want to get rid of any “gunk” clogging things up.

Why Drain a Water Heater? The Purpose and Benefits

Why Drain a Water Heater? The Purpose and Benefits

Draining your water heater periodically serves a few key purposes:

Extend Its Lifespan

Removing mineral sediment, rust flakes, and other debris slows internal corrosion and wear-and-tear. Your system will run better for longer before repairs or replacements are needed. It’s cheap preventative maintenance!

Increase Efficiency

Over time, as you use your heater, scale and residue from hard water can accumulate inside the unit. These deposits can act as insulation and reduce the efficiency of your heating system. However, you can easily address this issue by draining and flushing out your heater regularly. By doing so, you can remove any accumulated deposits and restore your heater’s capacity to its optimal level.

Reduce Noise

Over time, sediment can accumulate in the bottom of the water tank, leading to unwanted noises and rumbling vibrations when water is circulated. To restore the quiet operation of the tank, it is necessary to drain the accumulated sediment. By removing this buildup, you can effectively eliminate the noise source and prevent further issues from occurring. Draining the tank is a simple and effective solution that can help keep your water system running smoothly and quietly.

Improve Performance

If you’re looking to improve the heating performance of your water system and get hot water faster, draining your system could be the solution you need. When you flush out your pipes, it removes any built-up sediment or debris that may have accumulated over time, which in turn, enhances the efficiency of your system. With improved efficiency, you don’t have to waste as much water waiting for it to reach the desired temperature, thus conserving water and reducing your utility bills.

Steps to drain a water heater

Getting in the habit of periodic water heater drainage makes all kinds of sense! Now, let’s get into the step-by-step process.

Step 1: Turn Off the Power & Water Lines

Before draining, you need to shut off the water lines and power/gas supply lines leading to the unit. Safety first!

Locate the shut-off valve on the cold water line feeding into your heater. Give the handle a turn clockwise to close it. This stops any new water from entering.

Next is cutting power so things don’t turn on mid-drain. For electric water heaters, flip the breaker OFF. For gas models, turn the gas control/shut off valve lever to OFF.

With supply lines disabled, put a bucket underneath the tank drain valve. You’ll want to catch any initial water that comes out when opened.

Step 2: Open the Drain Valve and Connect the Hose

Here’s the play-by-play for accessing the drain valve:

First, make sure the pressure/relief valve lever is upright and closed. You don’t want water gushing from there!

Then, find the drain valve towards the bottom of the tank. It looks like an outdoor spigot or hose bib (about 3/4 inch diameter opening).

Place a bucket under the drain valve spout. Open the valve slowly by turning the handle counterclockwise. This lets trapped air hiss out safely into the bucket.

Once air stops spluttering, close the valve. Attach a garden hose to the drain bib, pointing it outside or into a floor drain.

Open the valve all the way again. Water should start flowing out of the hose. Let it drain completely.

Got kids eager to help? Let them run outside and play in the hot water spraying out. Just mind the temperature!

Step 3. Flush Out Sediment Fully

Here’s where the real cleaning happens. Think of it like rinsing out an empty ketchup bottle under a faucet.

To flush properly, close the drain valve once the tank empties. Disconnect the hose.

Turn on the cold water shut off valve to refill the plumbing lines and tank about 1/3 full. Mix up any sediment by swishing water around.

Reattach the hose and reopen the drain valve until water runs clear. Repeat filling 1/3 and drain flushing 2-3 times total.

When finished, disconnect the hose and make sure the drain valve is closed tightly.

Step 4. Refill & Restore Power

Almost done! All that remains now is refilling the tank completely and turning systems back on.

With the drain hose removed and valve closed, open the cold water shut off valve all the way.

As water starts entering the tank again, go examine all plumbing connections. Check for leaks at pressure valves, pipe joints, etc. Tighten if needed.

Once water flow from the hot taps returns to normal, your heater is full.

Last step is to restore power/gas so it can start reheating. Turn the electricity back on at the breaker or flip the gas valve to ON.

Set your thermostat to the usual temperature setting. Make sure the pilot ignites and main burner come on if applicable.

Congratulations – you just gave your water heater some TLC! Mark the calendar and drain again in 6 months.

Safety Considerations While Draining a Water Heater

Safety Considerations While Draining a Water Heater

Here are some essential safety considerations to keep in mind while draining a water heater:

  1. Turn off the power and gas supply: Before you start draining the water heater, ensure you’ve turned off the power supply to the electrical unit or shut off the gas valve for a gas-powered water heater. This will prevent any electrical hazards or gas leaks.
  2. Allow the water heater to cool down: The water in the tank can be extremely hot, reaching temperatures of 140°F or higher. Give the water heater ample time to cool down before attempting to drain it. This will prevent burns or scalding.
  3. Open a faucet to relieve pressure: Before opening the drain valve, open a hot water faucet somewhere in your house. This will allow the pressure in the tank to release gradually, preventing hot water from spraying out uncontrollably when you open the drain valve.
  4. Attach a drain hose: Connect a hose to the drain valve located at the bottom of the water heater. Ensure the hose is long enough to reach a drain or bucket. You can use a garden hose or a specific drain hose designed for water heaters.
  5. Open the drain valve slowly: Gradually open the drain valve to allow the water to flow out slowly. This will prevent a sudden rush of water that could cause damage or spills.
  6. Be prepared for sediment: As the water drains, sediment from the tank may also come out. Be prepared to handle the sediment and dispose of it properly.
  7. Close the drain valve once empty: Once the water heater is completely empty, close the drain valve tightly to prevent any further leaks.

Frequently Asked Questions

How often should I drain my hot water heater?

For most standard models, experts recommend draining every 6 months to 1 year. If you have hard water, shorten this to every 3-4 months.

Where is the water heater drain valve located?

The drain valve is typically towards the bottom of the tank, around 3-4 inches up from the floor. It looks like an outdoor hose bib or spigot you would attach a garden hose to.

How can I tell if my water heater needs draining?

Signs that it’s time to drain the tank include rumbling noises or banging coming from the unit, reduced heating capacity, slowing hot water, strange smells from faucets, corroded fittings, and leaks appearing.

Do I need to turn off circuit breakers for an electric heater?

Yes, you should always turn off the electricity when draining any water heater. Flip the dedicated breaker in your main panel completely OFF. This ensures heating elements won’t turn on mid-drain unexpectedly.

What is the relief valve on my hot water tank?

The relief valve acts as an emergency pressure release in case dangerously high internal tank pressure builds up. If the valve itself drips or discharges, it likely needs replacing since the release mechanism is worn out.

In Closing

I hope this beginner’s guide on how to drain a water heater gives you confidence to tackle draining your home water heater now and on a regular basis going forward!

Preventative maintenance like this will keep hot water flowing efficiently for years before any expensive repairs or replacement becomes necessary. Draining your unit every 6-12 months removes harmful sediment and mineral buildup, robbing capacity and heating ability over time. How does a bathtub drain work? Understanding the intricate system involves more than just watching water spiral away; it requires following the proper sequence of turning off supplies, opening valves, flushing repeatedly, and restoring power to ensure safe and simple operation. Plus, your water heater will thank you for maintaining this essential process!

News Reporter
Mark Buckingham grew up in a Plumbing and HVAC family business. Mark has over 21 years of professional internet marketing and SEO experience (in results). He’s a leading expert in helping Plumbing, HVAC and Electrical businesses get to the top of Google, boost leads, get more customers and grow their company. As the founder of Skyrocket Results SEO, he's on a mission to help HVAC contractors, Plumbers and Electricians avert internet marketing mistakes, avoid wasted marketing dollars, increase profits and build wealth. His free Plumbing, HVAC and electrical company marketing blog is:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *