How to Drain Your Water Heater: A Step-by-Step Guide

Tank water heaters are a dependable 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 can accumulate inside the storage tank. This may be sediment or mineral buildup originating from the main water line or an opening in the pipes. Whatever the source is, this buildup could reduce the efficiency of water heaters. In severe cases it can plug up drainage and might even lead to premature failure.

Thankfully, draining your water heater and removing sediment buildup is a relatively simple task. A certified plumber in Saint Charles can handle the process, but you can also drain the tank yourself if you know what you’re doing. Either way, draining the tank now can help reduce the risk you’ll need premature water heater replacement.

Before You Begin…

Before you start draining the tank, you’ll need 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 often if you do), the water main provides all the potable water your home uses. Keeping the valve closed will stop more water from reaching the tank, allowing you to completely empty it.

You’ll also want to fetch a rubber hose, like one you can 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 place the other end of the hose far away from your home to stop the water from flooding 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 Saint Charles.

Step 1: Shut Off the Water Heater

After you’ve cut off the water supply, you can shut off the water heater itself. This should be on the thermostat for natural gas water heaters or through a breaker switch for electric models. The pilot setting on gas water heaters can remain on during flushing, but electric models must be completely off. This is because of the heating elements electric water heaters use, which remain submerged. In an empty tank, they can quickly overheat. You should also review the model’s manual, as some water heaters have to be completely full before the heating elements are reactivated.

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 could be hours before the water reaches a safe temperature, so it may be best to leave the rest of the process for the following day.

Step 2: Attach the Hose to the Water Heater’s Drain Valve

Tank water heaters have a drain valve you can use to empty the storage tank. Once you’re confident 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.

Step 3: Open a Faucet or Other Hot Water Tap

Your home’s plumbing takes advantage of pressure inside the piping to maintain a consistent flow of water from the main water line to the rest of the house. This pressure will have to be relieved before the hot water can actually drain out of the tank. By heading to the nearest 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.

Step 4: Release the Drain Valve

Remember that this water can 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 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 looks free of sediment or minerals. If the drain isn’t working because of a clog, a trained plumber is likely required.

Step 5: Re-Shut the Valve Before Refilling the Water Heater

If everything proceeds like it’s supposed to, you should be able to take care of most excess sediment stuck inside your water heater. Seal up the drain valve, detach the hose and open the water supply to get things working again. As the water heater tank begins to fill, head back 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 earlier, don’t forget that certain models may need to be totally full before the water can be safely heated. Make sure you look through your manufacturer’s instructions before starting the process.

Keep Your Water Heater Sediment-Free for Best Results

Tank water heaters continue to be 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 maximum efficiency. If you think your water heater is past the point of efficient heating, consider looking for water heater replacement in Saint Charles from a technician you trust.