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How to Drain a Water Heater (& When You Shouldn’t!)

Birmingham homeowners with traditional tank style water heaters need to know how to drain a water heater. This is an important step in water heater maintenance. Our plumbing professionals give you step by step instructions on how to complete this task yourself, as well as share some times you should call a professional and hold off on draining your tank.

How to Drain a Water Heater Tank

Tank water heaters need to be drained about every six months following these steps:

  1. Turn off electricity or gas to your unit.
  2. Close the unit’s cold water supply valve (this is the valve that sends cool water into the tank).
  3. Attach a garden hose to the water heater drain valve, located near the bottom of the tank.
  4. Run the garden hose outdoors or into a bathtub for water drainage.
  5. Once the hose is secured and routed outdoors or to a drain, open the drain valve.
  6. Open the pressure relief valve at the top of the unit.
  7. Give the water heater time to let all water drain.
  8. Once your water heater tank is empty, reopen the cold water valve and let it run a few minutes to flush out leftover sediment.
  9. Close the drain valve and pressure relief valve, then detach your garden hose and drain it.
  10. Restore power or relight your water heater’s pilot light to start the system.

Why Drain Your Water Heater Tank?

A tank style water heater sees a great volume of water moving through its tank over a years’ time. Even in homes with softened water, this water still carries some minerals and sediment into the water heater – if you have hard water, your water heater is affected by greater volumes of these contaminants.

As water is stored in the tank, sediment and minerals fall to the bottom where they collect. They build and build over the course of a year as water passes through, which causes problems for your tank. Sediment buildup causes several issues including:

  • Corrosion of the tank, leading to leaks big and small
  • Less hot water supply
  • Popping noises from air trapped in the sediment
  • Difficulty heating water
  • Higher utility bills

When Not to Drain Your Water Heater Tank

While how to drain a water heater typically isn’t a basic home maintenance task, there are some scenarios where you do not want to do this. The first scenario is simply if you are not comfortable performing this maintenance task. In this situation, it’s always a smart choice to leave water heater maintenance to a professional – you don’t want to risk damage to your water heater or water damage to your home.

Next, don’t drain your water heater if you’ve never done so before! If your water heater has been in operation for several years yet you have never drained the tank, this isn’t a home maintenance task you want to suddenly start doing. 

Sediment buildup in the water heater tank often causes hot spots along the metal at the bottom, which causes the metal to break down. If your tank is full of sediment, the sediment may have actually plugged these tiny leaks over the years. If you suddenly drain the water heater and remove this sediment, you are likely to end up with a leaking unit.

Get Water Heater Help from Douglas Cooling & Heating

For help with your Birmingham water heater’s maintenance needs, turn to Douglas Cooling & Heating, a Douglas Cooling & Heating Company. Our licensed plumbers perform thorough maintenance to help your water heater’s performance and longevity improve. Schedule your service appointment today!

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