How to drain your water heater?

Draining your hot water heater keep it running efficiently and removes the scale and sediment buildup. You should always do this during regular business hours in case there is a problem you won’t be charged emergency fees to come and help.

Watch our Video and You’ll Learn: 

  • Draining, flushing, emptying, cleaning your water heater
  • 3 different styles of drain valves
  • Reasons why you need to drain or flush your water heater

Troy: Hello. Troy again. Champion Plumbing. Eagan, Minnesota. I’m here with Darnell. He’s been doing this a long time. We’re going to talk about draining, flushing, emptying, cleaning your water heater. So I’ll let him take it from there.

Darnell: So a few reasons that you would drain or flush your water heater. Over time you’re going to get some scale and sediment build up inside of these water heaters. After about a year’s time, you can potentially add up to a quarter of inch of scale in these which will equate to a 40% efficiency loss. It’s a pretty huge significant loss, so a few ways you can do that or cleaning the water heater, flushing it out. You’re going to shut your water off up top via your water shutoff valve. It should be right above on your cold side pipe. You might have a gate valve that turns, or you might have a ball valve. It’s going to be a lever.

Either one will shut your water off. And, if you don’t turn your water off, then you’ve got an issue with your water shutoff valve and you should address that. But shut your water off. And then you come down to the bottom here, you’re going to see what we’ve got three different water heaters. These are to show the three different styles of drain valves. Over here we’ve got a brass drain valve. The brass drain valve is going to use a screwdriver for operation. This one here is a gate valve style, so it’s going to turn a few times before it’s going to fully open. They do also have some that are ball valves, and they’ll just be a quarter turn operation on those ones. Next you’re going to see a plastic valve. These plastic valves, you just turn them to open them.

Very simple, just like your outside spigot. And then your final one here. This is going to be a round. Still the same style, the gate valve style. We’re going to open that up like so until it hits the stopping point there, and then they’ll close it after that.

Troy: How much water do they need to drain out of it if they’re just doing a cleaning?

Darnell: If you’re just doing a cleaning, you’re only trying to drain maybe quarter to half a tank. So once your water is off and you open up your drain valve, you’re going to come to your release valve here. Pop this open so that it’s sticking straight out like so. Once that lever’s straight out, that’s now going to introduce air into this water heater. It’s going to allow it to start draining. Without opening this, you can think of it like a kid playing with their straw. Their fingers sitting on top of the straw in the water’s not draining out. So you relieve that air pressure, that vacuum.

Once you’re doing that, you’re going to let it go for maybe approximately five minutes or so. After that time, you can close the drain valve, close the relief valve. Personally, I would suggest doing this a couple of times. I turn the water back on so everything kind of swirls up in there. I’d let it sit for 10, 15 minutes or so. And then go and repeat the process another time. It’s going to help kick along more of that sediment, that scale build up out of the bottom of the water heater.

Troy: And these are all gas water heaters. What’s an important step if you have an electric water heater?

Darnell: With electric water heaters, you do need to hit the breaker or kill the power to the unit in some fashion. Usually that’s going to be a breaker switch. You’re going to flip that to the off position, and then proceeded to drain your water heater.

With a gas water heater, you can leave your gas on and as is, it’s not going to do any damage to the unit. Just with the electric heater, you have a top and a bottom element. You’re going to be draining about half the tank out so that bottom element’s going to be dry. You don’t want that to get dry and still run. And that can burn out the elements on an electric water heater. The other reason you would do this, other than getting it cleaned, would be if you have a leak in your tank and you want to make sure you get it all out of there before it goes onto your floor. Same process. Shut the water off, open the drain valve down on the bottom, and then pull your relief lever. That’ll start draining your tank. Let it drain all the way out, and you shouldn’t have any more water coming into it.

Troy: And one last thing we didn’t mention is these all have garden hose connections on them, so you can hook a hose up to it if you’re just doing a cleaning. You could clean it into a bucket if you want. You didn’t have to break the hose out, but if you’re emptying it due to a leak, you want to throw a hose on that, go to your floor drain. Anything else you can think of Darnell?

Darnell: If you’re running into any issues when you have, when you’re taking your time to do this, make sure you call Champion Plumbing. (651) 365-1340. Get ahold of us. We can come out, we can service your water heater the same day, usually. Maybe even next day. And we’ll get you back up in business.

Troy: Very good. You got our number.

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