How to Drain Your Hot Water Heater | One Hour Heating & AC

How to Drain Your Hot Water Heater (And Why You Should)

Check your hot water heater maintenance manual. In all likelihood, it recommends draining the water from your water heater every 6 to 12 months.

If you haven’t kept a strict routine, it’s time to reimagine your maintenance regimen. General maintenance is key to saving energy and avoiding costly repairs.

Why Should I Drain My Hot Water Heater?

It all boils down to sediment. Sediment collected in the bottom of your water heater will negatively impact the function of the unit. Naturally occurring in tap water, minerals like magnesium and calcium bind together when heated and sink to the bottom of your tank.

Some signs of sediment buildup include:

  • a noticeably diminished amount of hot water
  • higher energy bills
  • inconsistent water temperatures
  • popping, banging, or rumbling noises when the hot water heater is running

Sometimes called flushing, many homeowners make draining their hot water heater tank a part of their annual spring cleaning or fall housework task list.

How to Flush a Water Heater

Before you get started: Know where your main water shut-off valve is located and how to use it. You shouldn’t need to turn off the water to the house to flush your tank, but it’s a good idea to know where it is in case things don’t go as planned.

Also, the water in your hot water heater is, of course, hot. To cool it, turn off your water heater for at least a couple of hours before beginning the draining process. Always use heavy rubber gloves to avoid coming into direct contact with hot water.

6 Steps for Draining Your Hot Water Heater Tank

  1. First, attach a spare garden hose to the drain valve located near the bottom of your water heater and make sure the other end of the hose is either in a large, sturdy bucket or runs directly outside. Open the tank’s drain valve for just a few seconds.
  2. Shut off the gas or electricity to your water heater, then turn off the water supply. The pipe leading into the top of the water heater with the valve is most often the cold-water pipe. It’s easy to determine which pipe is which; one will feel cold, the other will be hot. Make sure you turn off the cold-water pipe valve. Again, we recommend turning off the gas or electricity to your water heater several hours before attempting to drain the tank to avoid the risk of scalding hot water. If you’re unsure of how long to wait or are concerned about the risk, trust this project to a professional at your local One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning.

Take a moment to run the hot water from the faucet or another tap in the house. It should run, then slow to a trickle. Leave this tap on to relieve pressure in the system until you’re done draining.

  1. Re-open the hot water heater drain valve and let more water run through the hose. If you’re filling a bucket, you will need to turn the drain valve off and on repeatedly as your bucket fills up and needs to be emptied. It’s more time-efficient to let the hose drain directly outside if possible.
  2. By turning the cold-water valve on and off repeatedly, you will be able to clear more sediment by using that falling water to break it up and move it through the house. When your water is running clear, you’ve successfully cleaned the hot water heater of sediment buildup.
  3. Shut off the drain valve, remove your hose, and close all the hot water taps in your home except the one you’ve purposefully opened earlier. Turn on the cold-water valve at the top of the tank and let it fill up the water heater. Upstairs, you may notice the water flowing from the open faucet is murky or dirty; this is the last of the sediment to drain. Once it’s running clear, it’s okay to turn off this tap.
  4. Relight the pilot light if you have a gas hot water heater or turn on the power for an electric one. Always be very careful when relighting your pilot light. If you haven’t done it before, consult your owner’s manual or call an HVAC professional for assistance. Depending on the size of your water heater, you should have hot water again in 1-2 hours.
  5. Finally, take one more look at the drain valve to check if there are any leaks. Ensure the valve is tightened all the way if you do notice a slow drip. If it persists, you may need to give us a call.

Why Is My Hot Water Heater Not Draining?

If your water heater won’t drain or is draining slowly, you might have a clogged drain valve. You can try these steps to clear it:

  • Force some air. With your hose attached, stomp somewhere close to the drain valve to force air into the valve itself. You may need to do this repeatedly; think of a plunger in a toilet.
  • Use a coat hanger. Only try this method if you’ve turned off your water heater for several hours. With the valve on, use a straightened coat hanger to poke and prod in the drain valve. Once you work the clog free, be ready to turn the valve off quickly! It’s smart to have a drain pan and towel down to catch the water that might rush out suddenly.

Still no luck? There may be more in-depth repairs needed. Call a One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning to take a look.

Find Hot Water Heater Repair Near Me

Need a hand with your water heater? Trust the experienced technicians at One Hour Heating and Air Conditioning to tackle your hot water heater maintenance or emergency service 24/7. Get help when you need it. Call (800) 893-3523 or request an appointment today!