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Repair & Maintenance

Lengthen the Life of Your Water Heater when You Drain It Regularly

Proper water heater maintenance is necessary for keeping your water heater functioning correctly for a long time. Follow these simple steps for how to drain your water heater.

Homeowner working on water heater

You use your hot water heater every day – and things would quickly get pretty dicey at home if it broke down. A broken hot water heater means no hot showers or baths, no washing dishes, no laundry – and it can also mean shelling out several hundred dollars to buy a new heater and have it installed. But what if there was an easy way to extend the life of your water heater? There is. Flush your water heater to help it last longer and work more efficiently.

How Often Should You Drain Your Water Heater?

You should drain or flush your water heater once a year. If it’s been a few years since you flushed it – or if you can’t even remember the last time you flushed it – you should flush it as soon as possible. If your water heater is making banging noises, it’s time to flush it – not next week, not next month, but right now.

What Are the Benefits of Draining a Water Heater?

It should come as no surprise to you that a lot of water travels through your water heater – and that water is full of minerals that can build up in the tank in the form of sediment. Sediment creates hot spots inside the heater that can shorten its life by damaging the tank. If you have an electric heater, sediment can accumulate on the heating element, causing it to fail and necessitating an expensive repair.

Are you hearing popping, banging or rumbling noises from your water heater? That’s the sound of water percolating through the sediment inside the tank. If you’re hearing banging or rumbling noises from the tank, you need to drain it now, especially if you haven’t done so in more than a year. But don’t be surprised if a fair amount of muck comes out of the drain – or if the sediment clogs up the drain and requires some cleaning.

Draining your water heater regularly will save you money, because you’ll get more use out of it before it needs replaced. It can help you avoid the inconvenience of a broken water heater. The more often you drain your water heater, the less sediment you’ll have to deal with, and the less likely it’ll be to clog up your water heater’s drain, allowing you to perform the maintenance with less troubleshooting each year.

What Are the Steps for Draining Your Water Heater?

Draining your water heater is a fairly simple maintenance procedure that you should be able to do on your own. Here’s how to drain your water heater, step by step:

Water heater rust

Step One

Whether it’s gas or electric, your water heater should have a thermostat knob, usually near the bottom. Turn off the thermostat. If you have a gas appliance, this will turn off the pilot light, which you’ll need to relight after flushing the tank.

Step Two

If you have a gas heater, turn off the gas. If you have an electric heater, go to the fuse box and turn off the breaker that controls the hot water heater. Shut off the cold water supply to the water heater, too.

Step Three

Open a hot water tap in your home. Keep it open until you’re done flushing the tank. This will keep a vacuum from forming so you can perform the maintenance more easily.

Step Four

Open the water heater’s pressure release valve. Not only will this help the tank drain faster, it’s also an important part of water heater maintenance because it lets you test the pressure release valve. You want to make sure that’s working properly, because if it isn’t, and too much pressure builds up inside your water heater, it could burst.

Step Five

Connect a garden hose to your water heater’s drain line. It’s the thing that looks like a spigot at the bottom of the tank. Run the hose to your basement drain, or if you don’t have one, run it outside the house.

Step Six

Open the spigot on that drain and empty your hot water heater completely. Again, if you haven’t drained your water heater in a while, it will be full of sediment, and you’ll see that sediment coming out of the tank now. If your drain valve gets clogged with sediment at any point in the process, you can buy a shop vac attachment for the drain that will help you suck it out.

Step Seven

Once you’ve got the spigot open and the hot water and sediment are flowing out, turn the cold water supply to the heater back on. Let the water flow through the heater, and out your hose, until you’re seeing only clear water and no more sediment emerging from your water heater. At this point, you close the spigot, relight the pilot light or restore power to the heater, and turn your heater’s thermostat back up. Close the hot water tap you opened earlier.

See how easy that was? Water heater maintenance may be simple, but it’s necessary to keep your water heater functioning well for as long as possible. Take care of your water heater, and it’ll take care of you.

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