How to Drain a Water Heater

Still feeling the winter chill? Better Homes and Garden contributing editor Danny Lipford shows you how to drain your water heater, which will save energy and money.

Water Heater Maintenance

Draining your hot water heater every year or two will remove sediment buildup, allowing it work more efficiently and last longer. This can save you money on repairs as well as reduce your monthly energy bill.

Turn Off Electric Water Heater

Start by turning off your water heater before draining it. If you have an electric water heater, turn it off by flipping the circuit breaker that controls it.

Turn Off Gas Water Heater

To turn off a gas water heater, rotate the control knob near the burner at the bottom of the tank to the off position.

Close Cold Water Intake Valve

Next, close the cold water supply line valve located on top of the water heater by turning it clockwise to keep water from flowing into the tank while it's draining.

Open Pressure Relief Valve

Open the pressure relief valve on top of the water heater by pulling up on the handle until it locks in place. This prevents a vacuum from forming in the tank by allowing air to enter so the water can drain out. Another option is to open a hot water faucet in the house.

Attach Garden Hose

Attach a garden hose to the drain valve at the bottom of the water heater. Screw the hose on in a clockwise direction, being careful not to cross thread it if the water heater has plastic threads.

Open Drain Valve

Run the other end of the garden hose outside on the ground away from sensitive plants or grass that might be harmed by the hot water. Open the drain valve or faucet at the bottom of the water heater by turning it in a counterclockwise direction.

Drain Tank

Check to see that there are no kinks in the hose and that the water is draining freely. It may take 30 minutes or more for the water heater to drain completely.

Open Intake Valve

Once the water heater has finished draining, open the intake valve for a minute to flush out any remaining sediment.

Refill Tank

When the water running out of the hose is clear, begin refilling the tank by following these steps:

-- Shut the pressure relief valve on top of the tank, or the hot water faucet if you opened one instead.
-- Close the drain valve on the bottom of the water heater by turning it clockwise.
-- Unscrew the garden hose from the drain valve.
-- Open the cold water intake valve on top of the tank to allow it to refill.
-- When the tank is full, check the pressure relief valve and drain valve to be sure they are not leaking.
-- Finally, turn on the circuit breaker or relight the pilot light.

A Simpler Option

Another method of removing sediment that is easier, though less effective, than draining the tank is to siphon a bucket of water out of it while the water heater is on and full. Simply put a bucket under the faucet or attach a hose to the drain valve and open it for a few seconds to let some of the water at the bottom of the tank run out.

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