Tank water heaters are a reliable way to provide a fast supply of hot water for your home. The presence of a storage tank ensures some hot water is always available. But over time, other substances may 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 culprit is, this buildup can lower the efficiency of water heaters. In severe cases it can clog up drainage and could even lead to premature failure.
Fortunately, draining your water heater and clearing out sediment buildup is a relatively straightforward task. An experienced plumber in the U.S. can handle the process, but you can also drain the tank yourself if you know what you’re doing. Whatever you choose, draining the tank now can help lower the risk you’ll need premature water heater replacement.
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 frequently if you do), the water main delivers all the potable water your home uses. Keeping the valve shut will prevent more water from entering the tank, allowing you to completely drain it.
You’ll also want to get a rubber hose, like one you could use for yard work. The hose allows you to safely drain the water heater tank without spilling water all over your garage, utility closet, attic or wherever the water heater is kept. Make sure you put the other end of the hose far away from your home to prevent the water from seeping back inside.
Finally, a screwdriver will help you loosen stubborn screws or valves. You shouldn’t need any more tools than this unless you stumble upon 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..
After you’ve cut off the water supply, you can shut off the water heater itself. This will 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 remain on during flushing, but electric models need to be completely off. This is due to the heating elements electric water heaters have, which remain submerged. In a drained tank, they may quickly overheat. You should also review the model’s manual, as some water heaters have to be completely full before the heating elements are started.
Even after you’ve shut off the water heater, you’ll need to wait for the water stored in the tank to cool down. It may be hours before the water cools to a safe temperature, so it is often best to leave the remaining steps for the following day.
Tank water heaters possess 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 might have it covered up. Make sure the hose is firmly attached to prevent spilling hot water near you and the water heater.
Your home’s plumbing takes advantage of pressure within the piping to deliver 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 drain out of the tank. By heading to the closest 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 heading back to the water heater.
Don’t forget that this water might still have some residual heat. Open the drain valve and allow all the water to drain from the tank. This should carry 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 flush 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 may be required.
If everything proceeds normally, you should be able to clear out most excess sediment hiding inside your water heater. Seal up the drain valve, detach the hose and open the water supply to get things flowing again. As the water heater tank begins to fill, return 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 certain models might need to be totally full before the water can be safely heated. Make sure you review 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 flush sediment buildup and keep things running at peak 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 shockingly cold shower or turned on the faucet and there wasn’t any hot water. It’s a frustrating situation, but don’t panic. Learning the most frequent causes of no hot water is the first step toward finding... Continue reading
Heat pump water heaters, also referred to as hybrid water heaters, are a revolutionary and eco-friendly solution that might be ideal for your household’s hot water needs. Delve into the inner workings of these unique systems and explore their pros and cons to help you decide if a heat pump water... Continue reading
Depending on where you live, mild weather or harsh cold may be ordinary this winter. Regardless, your water heater works harder when the temperature drops outside. This begs the question — can water heaters freeze? While extremely rare, it’s actually not impossible for a water heater to... 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.