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

Tank water heaters are a dependable way to secure a fast supply of hot water for your home. The inclusion of a storage tank ensures some hot water is readily available. But over time, foreign substances can build up in the storage tank. This might be sediment or mineral buildup coming from the main water line or a flaw in the pipes. Whatever the culprit is, this buildup could reduce the efficiency of water heaters. In severe cases it can plug up drainage and may even result in premature failure.

Thankfully, draining your water heater and removing sediment buildup is a relatively straightforward task. An experienced plumber in West Chester can handle the process, but you can also drain the tank on your own if you know what you’re doing. Whatever you choose, 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 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 may need to drain the tank more regularly if you do), the water main delivers all the potable water your home uses. Keeping the valve closed will stop more water from reaching the tank, allowing you to completely drain it.

You’ll also want to grab a rubber hose, like one you would use for yard work. The hose allows you to safely drain the water heater tank without spilling water in 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 prevent the water from flowing back inside.

Finally, a screwdriver should help you loosen tight screws or valves. You shouldn’t need any more tools than this unless you discover a problem with the water heater or adjacent piping. At that point, it may be best to hire a certified plumber in West Chester.

Step 1: Shut Off the Water Heater

After you’ve turned off the water supply, you can shut off the water heater itself. This should be on the thermostat for natural gas water heaters or with a breaker switch for electric models. The pilot setting on gas water heaters can continue to stay on during flushing, but electric models need to be completely off. This is because of the heating elements electric water heaters have, which remain submerged. In an empty tank, they could quickly overheat. You should also check 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 may be hours before the water reaches a safe temperature, so it is usually best to leave the remaining steps for the following day.

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

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, go ahead and find the drain valve. Some models may have it covered up. Make sure the hose is firmly attached 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 within 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 returning to the water heater.

Step 4: Release the Drain Valve

Keep in mind that this water may 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 might be stuck to the inside of the tank. Turning the cold water supply back on will help wash away stubborn minerals and other substances from the tank.

Keep repeating this step until the water appears free of sediment or minerals. If the drain isn’t working because of an obstruction, 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. Retighten the drain valve, detach the hose and open the water supply to get things working again. As the water heater tank starts to fill, head back to the hot water tap you opened. Once cold water starts to flow, you know the pressure is back at appropriate levels.

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 might need to be completely full before the water can be safely heated. Make sure you check your manufacturer’s instructions before starting the process.

Keep Your Water Heater Sediment-Free for Best Results

Tank water heaters are still a great option for supplying your hot water needs. Draining the tank every 1-2 years will help remove 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 West Chester from a technician you trust.