How to Easily and Safely Drain a Water Heater 

To maintain the health of your water heater, it is important to drain it once every six to 12 months. This helps clear out the sediment that builds up in the bottom of the tank, which over time will cause the tank to work harder to heat your water. The harder the tank works, the higher your energy bills will be. At this point, you may be sweating it, wondering how to drain a water heater. Fortunately, it is a fairly straightforward process.


First Things First With Water Heaters

You’ll need to know where your main water shutoff valve is located. You won’t necessarily need to shut off your water while draining your water heater, but when working with plumbing of any type, you should know where it is, just in case.

You will be working with extremely hot water when draining your water heater, so you will want to ensure your safety when going through the process. If you are able to shut it off for a few hours to let the water cool down before you start, that is ideal. If not, be sure you have proper safety goggles and gloves to protect your eyes and hands from being burned.


What You’ll Need to Drain Your Water Heater

When draining your water heater, you will need the following:

  • Adjustable wrench
  • Flat-head screwdriver
  • Bucket
  • Garden hose

You may also need a drain valve and threaded hose cap, so it is a good idea to have these on hand.


How to Drain a Water Heater

What follows is the process for how to drain a water heater. Take it step-by-step and you will find the whole process is perhaps easier than you expected.


Do a quick flush of the drain valve

Prior to shutting off the water, attach your garden hose to the drain valve and open the valve for a few seconds (make sure you run the hose into a bucket or to a location outside your home). Doing this while you still have water pressure will help you flush any sediment out of the valve. If there is a lot of sediment, you can repeat this process once or twice.


Turn off your water heater

If you have a gas water heater, turn off the gas. If it is electric, then turn off the power to the water heater. Then turn off the water, which you can do by turning off the cold water on the pipe above the water heater or turning off the main water supply to your home.

You will want to turn on some of the hot water taps in your home to ensure the water pressure is off. You will find water will come out at first, then should slow to a mere trickle. Keep the hot water tap nearest your water heater turned on to keep the pressure down. The other hot water taps should be turned off.


Open the drain valve

Open the drain valve and allow the water in the tank to empty through your hose, either into a bucket or to the outside of your home. If emptying into a bucket, you will need to close the drain valve occasionally to empty the bucket.


Flush your water heater with water

Once the tank is empty, you will want to flush water through it to clean it out. You will do this by turning on the water for a few seconds, then letting it drain out. Do this a few times to clear out the sediment in the tank. When the water running out is clear, you will know the sediment has been cleared out completely.


Refill the water heater

Once cleaned out, you can close the drain valve, remove your hose, and turn the water back on, allowing the tank to fill. While the water heater is refilling, you will need to keep an eye on the hot water tap you left on to watch for when the water coming out if it begins to run clear. When this happens, you can turn off the tap.


Relight/turn on your water heater

If you have a gas water heater, you can now relight the pilot light. If the water heater is electric, you can turn the power back on. It will take about an hour for you to have hot water again.


Do a check of the drain valve

Finally, check the drain valve of the water heater to make sure it is fully closed. You will know it isn’t if you see any water leaking out. If the drain valve is not completely closed, you can cover it with a hose cap or you can replace the valve.


Now that you know how to drain a water heater, you can put this process into practice to keep your plumbing happy and energy bills as low as possible. And remember, even if you are in a new construction house or just bought a new water heater, you will still need to drain it regularly to keep it in good working order.


Contact us today to learn more home maintenance tips or to find a new construction home near you.


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Published 01.27.22

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