Water Heater Maintenance and How to Drain a Water Heater


So how long do water heaters last? Very long if water heater maintenance is performed on a regular basis or  even just once from 6 months to a year. It is essential to keep it running efficiently and economical. The maintenance process is so simple and should be performed about one a year depending on what maintenance you need to perform. There are many benefits and have been physically proven to extend longer life expansion.

Never should you drain your hot water heater if hot water is still in the tank.

Just by spending approximate 2-3 hours flushing your unit from buildup sediment it will improve efficiency and life expectancy so it’s defiantly worthwhile. Installing a new insulation cover every 5 years can reduce loss heat of up to 45% in return saving you 9% off your water heating cost within a year this applies to water storage tanks if you have one. Also make sure old or broken anode rods are replaced as they will prevent rust inside the tank, that is one of the major jobs of the rod and these are cheap and easy to replace follow our how to guide. There are many types of tankless water heater maintenance procedures and we cover a few here.

Hot Water Heater Maintenance Checklist What Needs to be Done?

There are several tests that can be performed before you start any heater maintenance they are simple to carry out and should not be too completed and will help you identify any potentially issues.

  • Test the TPR Valve
  • Check the Anode Rod
  • Drain the Tank and Wash Out Sediment
  • Adjust the Temperature
  • Check water heater drain pan
  • Check water heater drain valve

Why Do It?
Regular water heater maintenance ensures long life of your water heater as stated before, it will also keep your tank internally clean from bad elements and minerals that build up over time as you use water within the house. How long does it take to drain a water heater? Draining the unit can take anywhere from 3-4 hours depending on your skill level.

How Often?

No of people in your home Check water heater every Drain water heater every
1 to 2 6 months 12 months
3 to 5 4 months 8 months
6 or more 4 months 6months

10 Steps On How To Drain A Water Heater

Step 1: Locate Water Heater

First off find your water heater usually in your garage. Take a quick inspection for any cracks and look at the water heater drain pan for any water captured as this will indicate a potential leak. If there is water you will need to take further action and look for any potential water tank leaks.

Be careful! You are going to be dealing with gas/electricity and very hot water and steam.

Step 2: Determine if it’s Gas or Electric

This should be simple enough. Look around the tank itself and read any warnings and labels. If you can’t determine one if there is a pilot light odds are its gas.

Note: Read the instruction on the tank for turning off the gas and or electricity.

Step 3: Tests and Checks

  • As Always turn off the power and water to the heater this is for your own safety .
  • There are a few simple tips to check if you have issues and you should test your pressure from your house by screwing in a pressure gauge to your faucets, you can pic them up in any home centers. most pluming codes recommend the maximum water pressure to be around 80 psi or less (idea is 50 too 60 psi), if the pressure exceeds this amount a pressure release valve will need to be installed on the water mains.
  • Ensure your thermostats is not set too high this can cause the tp valve to discharge to release the pressure within the tank. Again the standard temperature is around 120 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Also flush the TP valve to remove any sediment that could have built up in the outlets.
  • Check to see if the expansion tank above the water heater has not failed or leaked, remove the cap above the tank and press in the pressure valve to release air if you have water mixed in with air you will need to replace the tank.

Check the Anode Rod
There is only one way to check if the anode rod needs replacing and that is to remove it and see how worn it is. Before performing this turn off your gas, electric and water . You will need a 1/16 socket, remove the plastic cap on top of the water heater tank and loosen the bolt you should be able to carefully pull out the anode rod and check to see the damage level. If it’s less than ½ inch thick, then you will need to buy a new one. For more detailed information on anode rod replacement.

Watch this video to Help understand the process more

Adjust the Temperature
First thing is turn off the electric current to the house. Then remove the metal casing, insulation and plastic cap. you should then be able to see a red button and a thermostat dial. take the screw driver and turn the dial to the setting to your desired heating level. you want to keep your water heater at about 120 degrees. For further information check out our article on correct water heater temperature.

Step 4: How to Drain a Water Heater Of  Sediment

Before we start on how to flush a water heater it is a good idea to understand some basics on why we drain a water heater. Water is pumped into your water heater along with this so is dirt and various minerals that settle at the bottom of your tank. This will soon reduce your water heater’s performance and costing more in the long run if not correctly maintained.

Below we take a look on how to drain a hot water heater all you will need is a hose, bucket (optional) and gloves (optional too, but safer with.)

Step 5: Locate Water Shut off Valve, Pressure Release Valve, & Water Drain

Take a look at the photo below to locate your water shut off valve.

Locate Water Shut-Off Valve, Pressure Release Valve & Water Drain

You will also find the pressure release valve usually at the top of the water tank. There is also a pipe leading out from the water heater that leads into the near wall. On the other side of the wall should the continuation of this piping typically in the front yard or entry way. The drain water heater pipe is near the base of your tank. Normally a hose can be attached so look for this type of connection .

Step 6: Turn Off Heating Source and Gather Supplies

Turn Off Heating Source and Gather Supplies

Turn Off Heating Source and Gather Supplies

Once you have established what type of water heater you have you can begin the yearly maintenance. First turn off the gas at your main so there is no gas leading to your water heater you can also turn off the circuit breaker if you have an  electric water heater. Turn off your heater the night before as this will save you energy from the water you will lose.

  • Find a deep bucket.
  • Use gloves for heat protection from water.

Step 7: Turn Off Water & Attach Hose

Turn Off Water & Attach Hose

Turn Off Water & Attach Hose

Turn the water off to the water heater then attach a hose as the photo above you can then drain the water.

Step 8: Turn On Water Drain & then Open Pressure Release Valve

Turn On Water Drain & then Open Pressure Release Valve

Turn On Water Drain & then Open Pressure Release Valve

Next turn the tap to release the water from the tank water will flow from the tank via the hose due to the pressure within the tank. Usually the water is dirty at first due to the rust inside this is normal sediment build up.  All this sediment needs to be drained or flushed from inside and this is the main reason for draining water heater.

  • Normally you need about 10 – 30 min allowing all water to drain from inside .

Step 9: Turn On the Water to flush the rest of the sediment out.

Turn On the Water to flush the rest of the sediment out.

Turn On the Water to flush the rest of the sediment out.

  • Turn off the water drain and remove the hose.
  • Take a bucket or hose to drain the tank.

With the pressure valve open turn on the water to the water tank, then open the water to remove any more debris that has not been eliminated. Allow a couple of gallons worth of water to drain. Make sure to inspect the water draining out of the unit for clarity look for any impurity and rust ensure it is clear. If all until now is fine after that your water heater upkeep has been correctly done now its time to re-fill the tank with water.

Step 10: Refilling the Tank

  • Make sure the water drain valve is turned to the off position.
  • Pressure release valve, make sure it is closed.
  • Turn on the water (allowing  the tank to re-fill).

Once you have the tank full you can switch the gas or electric back on.

Care! Do not turn the home heating on until the tank is full it can cause heating damage to the unit.

Water Heater Maintenance and How to Drain a Water HeaterKeep in mind If you experience any type of leaks in the water pressure valves or water valves make certain that they are tightened properly. There is a packing nut simply tighten the knob that could be tightened up if required. If the dripping continues then there is a good chance they have been worn and need to be replaced.
Water heater maintenance is easy, so be sure to perform this routine upkeep to maintain the valve functioning effectively too! If you have other serious troubles throughout this water heater upkeep process I highly suggest you to contact a water heater expert. Once you have flowed the how to drain a water heater steps above and everything is back to normal I would also recommend checking your water heater drain pan for any damage as the drain pan is your safety net in future for spotting any future potential leaks.

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