Have you noticed that your hot showers are getting shorter and less steamy? If this is the case, there’s a chance your water heater is losing some of its potency. But don’t worry, you don’t need to completely buy a brand new one or suffer through cold showers. You can easily learn how to drain hot water heaters and flush it to bring back some of its vigor.

Certain minerals like calcium and magnesium can build up over time in your water heater, causing you to need to drain the hot water heater. This is especially common in areas with hard water, and if you don’t counter the hard water with a water softener. This build-up reduces your hot water heater’s effectiveness, and can also start demanding more energy than usual to heat your water (driving your utility bill up). As such, it may be smart to start flushing and draining hot water heater once a year. And the fall is a great time to do it. This will extend the lifetime of your water heater, saving you from having to eat the cost of a replacement.

Supplies Needed:

Garden hose (yeah; that’s about it)

Note: some water heater tanks need to be completely full to avoid damage to the heating elements or gas burner. And of course, always read and follow all manufacturer’s directions and warnings for your particular water heater. If you don’t feel up to the task, contact a professional.

Step 1

Turn off your cold water supply valve at the top of the water heater.

Step 2

Turn off your water heater. If you have a gas water heater, turn the thermostat to the “pilot” setting. If you have an electric water heater, turn off the electricity from your main electrical panel. This is extremely important as exposed heating elements can burn out if the water level in your tank drops below the level of the hot elements. Water in the tank can remain hot for hours, so once you turn your water heater off, wait overnight before proceeding.

Step 3

Attach a garden hose to the drain valve of your water heater tank. This can be found near the bottom of the tank. Make sure to place the opposite end of the hose on the driveway or in a floor drain. You can also use buckets, just make sure to be careful as the water can be extremely hot as you work unless you’ve given it sufficient time to cool.

Step 4

Locate the nearest water tap to your water heater, preferably on the floor above. Doing this can help alleviate some pressure in the water heating system, allowing the water to drain far quicker from the tank.

Step 5

Now open the drain valve and let the water completely drain from the tank. Again, the water may be hot, so use caution. Once the water has completely drained from your tank, briefly turn the cold water supply back on. This can help stir up any remaining sediment. Turn off the cold water supply again, and then repeat the draining process again. You can continue to repeat this process until the water runs clear. Sometimes, there is severe sediment build-up which can block the opening of the drain valve. If this is the case, it may be best to call an expert for assistance.

Step 6

You can now close the drain valve and remove the garden hose, turning the cold water supply back on. Your water heater tank will start to fill back up. Remember to go back to the tap that you had opened up earlier; once cold water begins to flow from the tap, you can turn it off. You can now turn the electricity back on to the tank or the gas valve back on from the pilot position. Make sure to check the valve opening once it’s closed to make sure there aren’t any water leaks.

Knowing how to drain a water heater can come in handy, as installing a new water heater can cost anywhere from $795 to $2,800. The time it will take you to flush and drain the hot water heater is usually a better option than having to shuck out hundreds of dollars to replace it. Start flushing your water heater once a year to avoid needing to replace it, and helping extend its life.

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