Tank water heaters are a dependable way to provide 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, other substances can accumulate within the storage tank. This may be sediment or mineral buildup originating from the main water line or a flaw in the pipes. Whatever the culprit is, this buildup will sometimes lower the efficiency of water heaters. In severe cases it can clog up drainage and could even result in premature failure.
Fortunately, draining your water heater and clearing out sediment buildup is a relatively straightforward task. A certified plumber in Hillsborough can handle the process, but you can also drain the tank on your own if you know what you’re doing. Either way, draining the tank now can help lower 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 might need to drain the tank more regularly if you do), the water main supplies all the potable water your home uses. Keeping the valve sealed will stop more water from reaching the tank, allowing you to completely drain it.
You’ll also want to get 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 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 stop 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 nearby piping. At that point, it may be best to call a certified plumber in Hillsborough.
Step 1: Shut Off the Water Heater
After you’ve cut off the water supply, you can shut off the water heater itself. This will be on the thermostat for natural gas water heaters or via 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 due to the heating elements electric water heaters have, which remain submerged. In an empty tank, they may quickly overheat. You should also review the model’s manual, as some water heaters must be completely full before the heating elements are started.
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 is often 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 have a drain valve you can use to empty the storage tank. Once you’re sure the water supply is disconnected and the water heater itself is off, locate the drain valve. Some models may 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 uses pressure within the piping to sustain a consistent flow of water from the main water line to the rest of the house. This pressure needs to be relieved before the hot water can actually drain out of the tank. By heading to the closest 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
Don’t forget that this water might 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.
Repeat this step until the water looks clear of sediment or minerals. If the drain isn’t working because of a clog, a trained plumber may be 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 remove most excess sediment stuck inside your water heater. Close the drain valve, detach the hose and open the water supply to get things working again. As the water heater tank begins to fill, return 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 some models may need to be totally full before the water can be safely heated. Make sure you review 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 peak efficiency. If you think your water heater is past the point of efficient heating, consider looking for water heater replacement in Hillsborough from a technician you trust.