Draining your water heater

Around this time of year, with the temperature hitting double digits below freezing, there’s nothing I love more than to increase my gas bill by having a nice, loooooong, hot shower.  Which is easy to do since my water heater is relatively new and still in good working order.  But as it ages, there are some things that can be done to keep it working at its best. 

One of the simplest things to do is drain it on an annual basis to remove sediment that can build up in the bottom.  As clean as our water looks, there are small particles that will accumulate in the bottom of the water heater.  Over time, as the particles build up, they will affect the efficiency of your water heater.  Follow the simple steps below to drain your water heater to improve its effectiveness and life expectancy.

1.  Turn off the gas valve
Near the base of the gas line, where it enters the water heaters control module, you’ll find a valve that is parallel to the gas line. Turn that valve 90⁰ so that it is perpendicular to the gas line.  This cuts off the gas supply to the water heater.

If you have an electric water heater, find the breaker in your electrical panel that supplies the power and turn it off.

2. Turn off the water supply
There will be two water tubes protruding from the top of the water heater. One supplies cold water to the heater and one sends hot water throughout the house.  The tube with a valve on it is the cold water supply; turn that valve off.

3.  Attach a hose to the drain valve
The drain valve is at the base of the tank (not to be confused with the Temperature/Pressure Relief valve which is at the top of the tank and should have a rigid tube attached that terminates about 6 inches above the floor).  Attach a hose to the drain valve and run the other end to your floor drain.  If your water heater is close to your floor drain and there is a slope to the drain, you may not need a hose.

4.  Open the drain valve
Remember that the water is still very hot and should be treated with caution.  If water doesn’t come out, then there may already be enough sediment built up in the bottom of the tank so that the drain valve is blocked.  If this is the case, the repairs are beyond the scope of the average homeowner and a professional should be called.

To allow the water to drain faster, go to the nearest faucet and turn on the hot water.  This will allow air into the hot water system, speeding up the drain process.

Once the tank is empty, open the water supply valve, leaving the drain valve open.  This will allow any remaining sediment to be flushed out.  Once the water coming out of the tank is clear, you can close the drain valve and allow the tank to fill.  Remove the hose and ensure that there are no leaks.

5.  Turn on the water heater
If you have an electric water heater, turn the circuit breaker in the panel back on.  If you have a gas heather, open the gas valve so that it is parallel again with the gas line.

I suggest waiting until the tank is full before turning the heat back on.  Some tank manufacturers recommend that the tanks be full to prevent the gas burner or heating element from being damaged.

Going through this process on an annual basis will extend the life of you water heater and ensure that you have nice hot showers throughout the cold winter months.  Of course, the more effective your water heater, the more tempting it will be to have that looooooong hot shower!

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