How to Drain Your Water Heater and Lengthen Its Life

A White person's left hand gripping the spigot of a water heater. The tank is gray, and the spigot is brass with signs corrosion.

With a little bit of time and a guide, you can drain your water heater yourself. Draining your water heater minimizes sediment buildup, which can damage your water heater over time. Here’s how you can drain your water heater.

1. Turn off the gas or electricity

If you have a gas heater, turn off the gas. There should be a shutoff valve for the gas supply lines to your house, or your furnace may have a setting on the thermostat to cut off the gas supply to the tank.

If you have an electric heater, go to the fuse box and turn off the breaker that controls the water heater.

2. Turn off the thermostat

The water heater’s thermostat is usually located near the bottom of the heater. If you have a gas heater, turning off the thermostat may also turn off the pilot light. If so, don’t forget to relight the pilot when you’re finished draining the tank. Your gas water heater should have instructions for how to restart the pilot light, and it’s usually pretty easy.

3. Turn off the cold water supply to the tank

This step is easy to overlook, and it can make quite a mess or even hurt you if you forget to do it! Make sure you’ve shut off your cold water supply to the tank before going any farther.

4. Wait for the tank water to cool

The water in your water heater could be scalding. If you try to drain scalding water, you’re likely to burn yourself. By waiting for the water to cool (about 30 minutes, but as many as 2 hours), you can more safely drain it.

5. Check for leaks

Once you’ve turned off the above elements and let the water cool, it’s time to check for leaks. If you notice any dripping or standing water near your water heater, or any water near connected valves or pipes, you likely have a leak. A leak means higher water bills. It also means that your heater won’t run as efficiently as possible.

At this point, you may need to research, find, and contact a professional to assess the leak. Or, if you have a Home Warranty Service Agreement from 2-10 Home Buyers Warranty (2-10 HBW), you can file your claim through us and we’ll dispatch a quality, approved professional to assess your leak.

6. Open a hot water tap in the house

If your water heater doesn’t have any leaks, you can move to the next step: opening a hot water tap in your house. Doing this prevents a vacuum from forming and makes draining the tank easier. Keep the tap open until you’re finished draining the tank.

7. Open the temperature and pressure (T&P) release valve

The T&P valve will be either high on the side or on the top of the water heater. First, make sure it works. If it isn’t functioning properly, pressure can build inside, causing your water heater to burst. Here’s how to test it.

Lift the T&P lever part-way, allowing it to snap back into place. Don’t lift it all the way. You should hear a gurgling noise as the valve sends some water to the drainpipe.

Be careful as you do this. If you didn’t wait for the tank to cool, the hot water released may be scalding.

If no water comes out or you don’t hear any gurgling, replace it immediately, as this is a sign that pressure could be building to a critical point.

8. Attach a hose to the heater’s drain

If the T&P release valve is working correctly, connect a garden hose to your water heater’s drain line, which looks like a spigot near the bottom of the tank. Run the hose to your basement drain or run it outside the house.

Use a strong hose. Cheap garden hoses can become soft when hot water runs through them, causing leaks.

9. Turn on all of the hot water faucets in your house

This prevents vacuums from forming. Don’t be alarmed if the water only trickles out. That’s normal.

10. Open the heater’s drain valve, allowing the tank to empty

Water and sediment will begin to drain through the hose you attached to the water heater’s drain.

11. Turn on the cold water supply to the heater

Let water continue to flow through the hose until you see only clear water coming out. This may take some time. Once clear water flows from the hose, you can close the spigot. Then, all you need to do is:

12. Relight the pilot light or restore power to the heater

13. Turn your heater’s thermostat back up

14. Close the hot water taps throughout the house

15. Turn the electricity or gas back on

That’s it! You’ve successfully drained your water heater, lengthening its life.

Of course, water heaters rarely fail on a schedule, and the unexpected is expensive. To protect yourself against the wear and tear your water heater will face, consider a Home Warranty Service Agreement from 2-10 HBW. A Home Warranty Service Agreement makes protecting your home simple and affordable.

2-10 HBW offers Home Warranty Service Agreement coverage for homeowners. Let us help you protect your home.

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