Why is it important to drain your water heater?

Household 3 min read

Draining a water heater at first might sound daunting, and you might think it would be easier to call a plumber to do it. But with the proper guidance and a few household supplies, you’ll be able to tackle this project yourself like a pro.

Over time, your water heater accumulates sediment and debris. The buildup of sediment can cause your water heater to work harder to heat your water, resulting in higher utility bills and faster wear and tear on the appliance. It’s important to drain your water heater regularly in order to flush the debris buildup and maintain it in good working order. Proper care and maintenance will allow your water heater to last longer and save you money from replacing it. Learn more about how to maintain a water heater and other home maintenance tips.

How to drain a water heater

The following are the steps you’ll take to drain your water heater.

1. Gather your supplies

Before you begin draining your water heater, ensure that you have the following supplies nearby:

  • Garden hose: Ensure that the hose is long enough to reach from the water heater to a drain location outside your home.
  • Bucket or large container: You’ll use the bucket to catch the water that comes out while releasing the pressure from the tank.
  • Adjustable wrench: You’ll use the wrench to disconnect the drain valve from the water heater.
  • Screwdriver: Depending on your water heater model, you may have to use a flathead screwdriver to open the pressure release valve.

2. Prioritize safety

Before you start draining your water heater, turn off the power supply by switching off the breaker on your electrical panel for the water heater. Turn the gas control knob to the “off” position if it’s a gas water heater. Wait a few hours before you begin to allow the water in the tank to cool off before you start.

3. Prepare to drain the water heater

Look for the drain valve near the bottom of the tank. Screw one end of the garden hose securely to the drain valve and place the other near an outdoor drain location.

4. Release the pressure

When draining your water heater, turn on the hot water faucet in the sink closest to your water heater to prevent a vacuum from forming in the tank. Carefully lift the lever on the pressure release valve, which you can typically find near the top of the water heater. When you hear a hissing sound, you’ll know you’ve relieved the pressure successfully.

5. Drain the tank

Open the drain valve slowly by turning it counterclockwise with your adjustable wrench, allowing the water to flow through the garden hose and into the drain. Place the bucket beneath the drain valve to catch any water or debris that might come out.

6. Flush out the sediment

Let the water flow until it runs clear. Draining your water heater helps to flush out residue and mineral deposit buildup that tends to settle at the bottom of the tank.

7. Refill the tank

Once you can see that the water is running clear and no more sediment is coming out, close the drain by turning it clockwise. Disconnect the garden hose and ensure the drain valve is closed securely. Turn the water supply to the water heater back on and allow the tank to fill. Remember to ensure you have turned the hot water on to release the trapped air in the line. You will see a bit of sputtering, and then the water will flow freely again.

8. Turn the power back on

The last step is to restore power to your water heater by switching the breaker back on or turning the gas control knob back to the on position. You’ll want to wait for the water heater to heat up and ensure it’s functioning correctly.

How long does it take to drain your water heater?

According to Angi, the total time to get set up, drain, flush, refill the system, and then return to having hot showers can take about two hours. The time it takes to drain your water heater depends largely on how many gallons the tank holds and how long it takes to flush the sediment.

How often should you drain your water heater?

The Home Depot recommends that you drain your water heater every six months or so unless you have hard water (water with higher concentrations of calcium, magnesium, and lime), in which case you’ll want to flush it more often.

Hopefully, this guide has given you the confidence to drain your water heater yourself, but if you think it’s not a project you want to tackle, you can always call in a professional.

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