Prolong the lifespan of your water heater by draining it down at least once a year. Here’s how:
There are two main types of water heaters, gas and electric. The instructions below address both types.
- Electric: Turn off the electricity to the water heater. (You may need to turn off a breaker or remove a fuse in your electrical panel to ensure the unit is deactivated.)
Gas: Turn the gas dial to the lowest temperature setting or “Pilot.
- Turn off the cold water supply valve (generally located on top) to the heater.
- Attach a garden hose to the drain valve (located at the bottom of the heater, sometimes hidden under a removable cover). Run it to a convenient drain location, or into a bucket.
- Open any hot water faucet in the house – your best bet is the one closest to the water heater.
- Open the drain valve on the hot water heater and allow it to drain completely – but be gentle! The valve can easily break. If it clogs during the draining process, open the cold water supply valve and see if the water pressure will open the clog. If it does, close the cold water supply valve and continue draining.
- When the hot water heater is empty, close the drain valve and open the cold water supply valve. This may dislodge more sediment in the heater. Partially fill the heater with cold water, close the cold water supply valve and drain the heater again following steps 2 through 5.
- Look at the water being drained to see if it is clear or if there is still some sediment in the drain water. If the water is clear continue to Step 9. If not, continue to step 8.
- Flush the hot water heater by opening the cold water supply valve while the drain valve is open and let the water run for 5 to 10 minutes. Close the cold water supply valve and repeat step 7.
- Close the drain valve, remove the hose, and turn on the cold water supply valve. Allow the hot water heater to fill with cold water.
- Open all the hot water faucets in your home, one-by-one, until any air in the line is purged and water flows smoothly. Remember – the water will not be hot since you haven’t turned the heating element on yet.
- Electric: Turn the electricity to the water heater back on by turning the breaker on or replacing the fuse.
Gas: Turn the gas from “Pilot,” or the lowest setting, back to your original setting as noted in step 1.
Your hot water heater is now clean and ready for continued use. Most professionals recommend draining and flushing your hot water heater annually.
Getting water for emergency use:
Should an emergency arise and you need access the safe drinking water in your hot water heater, simply drain the water as described below.
If you only need a small amount of water, you can open the drain valve slowly and empty hot water into a suitable container. Keep in mind the water will be very hot so a metal or heat resistant glass container would work best. Remember to protect your hands, arms and face from hot splashing water or the hot container!
Turn the electricity off to the hot water heater or the turn the gas valve to “Pilot” (as described in step 1 ) if you intend to use all the water in your hot water heater. Also, turn off the cold water supply valve to isolate your hot water heater from potentially contaminated public piping systems (which can occur as the result of an earthquake). Allow several hours to pass before you attempt to drain large quantities of water from the hot water heater. Open any hot water faucet in the house and open the drain valve to capture clean drinking water. The water may still be hot, so protect yourself accordingly.