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How to Drain a Water Heater

Since you’re reading this, it’s safe to assume you haven’t drained your water heater ever or in a very long time. But don’t worry — you’re not the only one! This quick plumbing maintenance can often be overlooked. Just know that following this, you should drain your water heater every six months to a year for optimal performance.

By draining it, you remove any sediment or buildup at the bottom of your water heater. All that accumulation can prevent the water heater from working effectively, and can possibly increase your utility bills. Below, you’ll find some steps to help clean up all that gunk in your water heater.

Things To Know Before You Drain

First thing’s first — make sure you know where your home’s water shutoff valve is. In case of an emergency and you need to cut off all water to the house, it might come in handy. Also, you should turn off your hot water heater several hours before, so it has time to cool down. The water can be extremely hot, so take preventative action against this.

Some equipment you’ll need:

  • adjustable wrench
  • flathead screwdriver
  • garden hose
  • bucket
  • heavy-duty gloves
  • safety glasses

Additionally, you could also purchase a thread hose cap and a new drain valve, should you need to completely replace your old one.


Step 1: Do A Quick Flush

Connect a garden hose and try giving it a few quick flushes before turning off the water pressure. The pressure will help push out any sediment faster.

To do this, open up the drain valve for a few seconds before shutting it off again. Repeat this process a few times to help you speed up the draining. Make sure the garden hose is connected and leads either outside your property or into a bucket to dump.

Step 2: Turn Off Water Heater

To turn off the water heater, you will either turn off the power, if you have an electric one, or shut off the gas, if it’s a traditional one. Next, turn off the water either by using the cold-water valve on the pipe connected to or near the water heater. You could also do this by turning off the main water supply to the entire house.

Double-check to make sure the water is off by testing multiple faucets inside your home. It is okay if water trickles or gushes out for the first minute or so — it will eventually stop. Be sure to open one hot water faucet in the home, preferably the one closest to the water heater. This will help in alleviating all the pressure.

3. Open the Drain Valve

Making sure your garden hose is attached first, open up your drain valve. You might be able to do this by hand, but chances are you’ll need your handy, dandy screwdriver.

Once the valve is open, water will begin flushing out again so make sure your hose is securely attached and either leading outside or dumping into a bucket. If you are using a bucket, regularly turn the valve off and back on, so you can dump out the water. Continue this process until the water runs clear. This means that the sediment and buildup are removed.

4. Turn The Water Heater Back On

Turn off the drain valve and remove the hose. Make sure that the hot water faucets are all off, except for the one you left on.

Now you can begin to turn the water back on. Partially open the valve slowly, so the system eases back into the pressure. Once it is reenergized, you can fully open the valve. Check the one faucet that you left on to ensure only water is coming out.

5. Reignite the Water Heater

After you have done everything else, either relight the pilot light, or turn the power back on if it is electric. Give it an hour or so, and the hot water should be back!

6. Inspect Your Drain Valve

Once your water heater is back on and working, check to see if there are any possible leaks around the drain valve. If so, either use the threaded hose cap or replace it with a brand new drain valve!

We’ve Got Your Back

Now that you know what tools to use and how to carry out this process, you too can flush water heaters. Flushing out the buildup and gunk yearly will help ensure your water heater is at maximum performance. Should you need services that require a licensed technician, contact Earl’s Plumbing for all plumbing or replacement options.

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