Hot water is one of the very best things that civilization has brought to us. This is why we should all care for and protect the equipment that makes it possible! Whether it is done as a bit of regular maintenance or because you are about to leave a home unoccupied, draining your hot water heater is one of the simplest ways to keep it in great shape.
Why you should drain your hot water heater:
Many water supplies contain random minerals in all different quantities that can result in your water being considered "hard" if they build up enough. Over time, these minerals settle down in the bottom of your hot water heater. This layer of minerals will become thicker and eventually interfere with the function of the appliance. Before you reach that point, you can flush out your water heater. How often you flush depends on many factors including the size of the hot water heater and how often it is used. A good rule of thumb is to flush your water heater every six to 12 months, whether you think it needs it or not. It’s better to wash those particles out before they become a problem. There are also other reasons that you would need to drain your hot water heater other then just for the flushing of particles. You can also drain them to prepare a home that is going to be sitting vacant for a significant period of time. Draining is also a very important step to winterizing vacant homes.
How to drain a hot water heater:
Draining a hot water heater is a really simple process. The hardest part is working with water hot enough to scald you. So before you get started you can grab some thick dish washing gloves or some other form of hand protection. With your skin adequately protected, draining or flushing your hot water heater is a piece of cake. Just follow these steps:
- Turn off the water heater. If it’s electric, flip the breaker; for gas units, turn the gas off or set the unit to “pilot.”
- Wait patiently for the water to cool a bit. The longer you give it, the safer you’ll be. (You can skip this step, but do so with caution)
- Turn the cold water off. You can’t drain a water heater that’s constantly filling up!
- Open some faucets. Pick a faucet or two close to the water heater and turn the hot side on and leave it on until you’re totally done with the draining portion of the show. This helps speed up the draining and prevents vacuums from forming in the pipes.
- Attach a water hose. It’ll screw onto the brass drain valve near the bottom of the unit.
- Pick a spot to dump the water. There’s a lot of water about to come out of that hose, so choose your disposal option carefully. Outdoors is a good place to run the hose (just not too close to the house), but if you can’t reach that far, a sump pit, floor drain or big bucket will do.
- Open the valve! If you’re flushing the hot water heater, then let it run a few gallons at a time into a bucket so you can tell when the sediment has finished coming out of the unit.
If you’re draining your hot water heater because you’re leaving the house empty for a while, you’re essentially done with the water heater now. If you’re flushing sediment, keep going until you see the water run clear, then do all those steps in reverse for a hot water heater with shiny clean insides and hot water.