How to Drain a Water Heater: 10 Tips

To keep a water heater in good condition, it may be necessary to occasionally drain and flush it. Learn how to drain a water heater here.

Did you know that most water heaters have a life expectancy of only 10-13 years? Many people don’t think about changing the water heater in their homes, but it could lead to many issues if untreated. Instead of waiting until its too late, learn how to keep your water heater in good condition to avoid extra bills. Continue reading to discover how to drain a water heater by yourself, with these helpful tips.

Signs That You Need to Drain Your Water Heater

One of the most obvious signs that you need to drain your water heater is that you are running out of hot water faster than normal. When the sediment builds up too much, the heating element in the tank is at risk of burning.

Orange and rusty looking water is another sign that you should not ignore. This happens when the anode rod deteriorates. Unfortunately, water heater tanks are made of a material that eventually gets worn down over time.

If your water heater seems to be making more noises than normal, it could be another sign that your tank is dying. This happens when minerals build up over time and harden, and when the hot water is in there, it affects the brittle tank.

Another important red flag to watch out for leaks in the tank. If you notice that your water heater is leaking, the tank may be damaged from sediment buildup. Over time the sediment breaks down the material of the tank and becomes rusty.

Water heaters account for 17% of energy use in a home. Ignoring these signs, that your water heater tank is dying, could be wasting you a lot of money.

1. Prepare Your Water Heater

If you are learning how to drain a water heater, the most important tip is to prep your heater by turning it off.

You will need to know what type of water heater you have for this step.

Electric water heaters typically have a switch that connects them to electricity. If you are having a difficult time locating the switch to turn it off, check for a board above the heater. Sometimes the switch is hidden in the switchboard.

If you use an electric heater, you need to ensure that the power is off before flushing the tank. They typically have their circuit breakers in the main electric panel.

Those who have a gas-powered water heater should turn the switch to “pilot.” The pilot light will remain on when you do so, however, the water won’t continue to be heated.

2. Wait Before Continuing

It is highly recommended to let all of the water in the tank to fully cool off before continuing.

Many people underestimate the amount of time that this could take. You should expect the water to take anywhere from a couple of minutes to hours to cool off. Depending on the size of the water heater, you may require more or less time.

Your water inlet valve should be in the “on” position during this stage.

Waiting to continue before flushing the water pipes is crucial because you could run the risk of burning yourself or damaging items where the water will be released. Take extra precautions during this step.

3. Flush the Pipes

After waiting several hours, the next tip on how to drain a hot water tank is to flush the pipes.

You will need to turn off the cold water inlet switch to properly do this step. This switch is often found towards the top of the heater. It is also where water accumulates before being heated.

Next, you will have you go to a sink in the house and turn on the hot water. It is recommended to go to the floor above where the water heater is located, if possible.

Let the water run until it is cool and all excess water from the pipes is removed. The point of letting the water flow and flushing the pipes is to also relieve any pressure that may have built up in the pipes.

It is important that once you have done these steps, that you open the pressure relief valve. Don’t be worried if you hear a hissing sound, it is normal.

4. Transfer to an Outdoor Drain

Most homes will require you to drain your water heater, into a drain outside of your home.

One of the best ways of doing this is by finding a long garden hose.

This also works if you have a drain in your basement, you can simply use the hose to transfer the water. You should ensure that the hose is long enough if you need to turn the water on, you can place it in a garden area.

If you notice that the water is not properly flowing out, you may have a kink or clog in the hose. Be sure to fully check the hose and prevent any kinks, if you have a clog, you will need to fix it.

How to Drain a Water Heater

5. Connect to the Pump

Now that your water heater is fully prepped and you have your garden hose, you must connect it to the pump.

You will need to know if your water heater sits above ground or below.

If your water heater is above ground, your job is a little easier. You simply need to connect the hose to the tank. After that, you will have to let gravity force the water downwards and out of the tank.

Those who have a water heater underground will need to buy a small pump at the store to connect to the hose. On the other end, it will reattach to another hose to pull the water out or into a drain. You may also have to plug your pump in for it to work.

6. Collect Water

Through the entire process of draining your water heater, you should have a bucket to collect your water.

You will need this water in a bucket for the next step of draining your water heater.

Many people also recommend putting your hose in a garden area to use the water, instead of just wasting it.

Leaving the hose running to flush out can waste a lot of water. Collecting the excess water with a bucket is suggested to save and reuse. Some people also set the hose in the grass or a garden area to water the space and keep plants nourished.

When you collect the water, you will also be able to see how much sediment is in the water.

7. Evaluate and Decide

Collecting water in a bucket is highly recommended to determine if you need to fully flush your water drain.

If the water heater is in good condition and clean, the water in the bucket should appear clean as well.

The watercolor and sediment buildup helps indicate the condition of the tank.

If there is a large amount of sediment built up at the bottom of your bucket, you will need to flush out the water heater. If there isn’t much built up, you may be able to keep an eye on it and flush it later on.

8. Flush the Water Heater

To flush your water heater, you will need to disconnect the garden hose that you previously attached. You then have to turn off the water tap and the pressure relief valves.

Next, fill the tank with water and drain again. You may need to repeat this step several times before fully draining the sediment. The more sediment that is built up, the more times you will need to rinse.

Many people claim that pouring the sediment-water into the toilet is a good way to get rid of the liquid. It is important to keep in mind however, that it could leave stains. Be sure to fully clean your toilet if you choose to flush the water.

Make sure that after each time that you drain the tank, you briefly turn on the cold water valve. This will release cold water into the tank to refill and drain again.

9. Put It Back Together

Now that the sediment has been cleared out of the water heater tank, you can now put everything back together.

First, take off the garden hose and turn the pressure relief valve. You will also need to turn your gas and electricity intake back on by flipping their switches. Your water heater should preform normal once you follow all of these steps.

The water should begin filling to its standard amount and stop.

You should then go back to the sink that you previously released the water pressure in the pipes and turn on the hot side. This will relieve back pressure within the tank. It should also fill up with water again.

Don’t be alarmed if you head a hissing or sharp sound. Keep it running until a full stream of water is going.

After you have completed this step and your tank is full, you can resume normal functioning.

You may need to seek professional help if you are still having issues with the tank.

If you require a new water heater, you can take our survey, found on our water heater installation page, to see which one is best suited for your needs.

10. Monitor and Keep up on Maintenance

Monitoring and keeping up on routine maintenance is the best way to ensure optimal water heater performance.

There are many things that you can do to improve the lifespan of your water heater.

One of the best ways to prevent issues from arising is by placing your water heater in an empty area. Surrounding it with too many items can run the risk of cutting off airflow and even starting a fire.

Another way to maintain your water heater is to adjust the temperature if you are leaving town for some time. You can either put the temperature on the lowest setting or completely turn it off until you come home.

how to drain a water heater

Common Problems

Although having a step- by- step guide can be useful, sometimes problems arise that aren’t as common, so how can you solve them?

One of the biggest problems that people have is locating the pressure and water intake valves. Pressure valves are often found at the top or side of the water heater, connected with a small lever.

Another common issue is if you find water still flowing, even after you have shut off all of the valves. This could be a sign that you have a faulty valve, or you may need to install one.

If water is not coming out, however, you will have to disconnect your garden hose and slowly open the valve. If water does not come out, you may need to stick something in the valve to close it.

Always be safe while working with the water heater, it is easy to get scolded with hot water. Gloves, glasses, and long sleeves are recommended.

Now That You Know How to Drain a Water Heater

Learning how to drain a water heater can be extremely useful and easy if you utilize the guide above.

One of the most important things to remember while draining your water heater is to make slow movements when opening and closing valves, as pressure is released and can hurt you. The water can be extremely hot, so take caution.

The process of draining a water heater is quite simple and can be done in only 10 steps. You should always take precautions and try to maintain the heater tank to avoid damage and replacement.

Don’t forget to watch out for rusty looking water and shorter lengths of hot water, these are two indicators that you need a replacement.

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