Home Improvement Expert Danny Lipford

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How to Drain a Water Heater


Draining your water heater once a year removes sediment from the tank that can cause it to work harder and cost more to use. Learn how it’s done in this video. ...More




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How to Drain a Water Heater

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Draining your water heater once a year removes sediment from the tank that can cause it to work harder and cost more to use.

  1. Begin by turning off the power or gas to the water heater.
  2. Next, turn the cold water supply valve off that allows water to flow into the heater.
  3. Hook a garden hose to the drain valve at the bottom of the tank and run it outside on the ground.
  4. Open the drain valve where the hose is attached.
  5. Open the pressure relief valve on top of the tank by pulling up on it.
  6. Allow the water in the tank to drain out.
  7. When the tank is empty, open the cold water valve for a few minutes to flush out the last remaining sediment.
  8. Close the drain valve and pressure relief valve and allow the tank to fill back up.
  9. Relight the pilot to the heater if gas, and turn it on.
  10. If electric, flip the breaker to restore power to the water heater.

For further information, see our video on Water Heater Maintenance.



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14 Comments on “How to Drain a Water Heater”

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  1. Andy Says:
    October 29th, 2010 at 9:31 pm

    You glossed over a very important point: for those with gas hot water heaters, you say “turn the gas off.” Is there a special gas turn off on the hot water heater, or do you mean turn the gas off at the house, which is a big deal. The utility company doesn’t want us to turn off the gas to the house, unless really necessary. Please clarify.

    Thanks.

  2. Official Comment:

    Ben Erickson Says:
    October 30th, 2010 at 10:05 am

    Hi Andy,
    When draining a hot water heater, turn the gas off at the heater, not the main for the whole house, by turning the control knob on the water heater to “off.” Or you can turn the water heater to “pilot” while you’re draining it, that way you won’t have to relight the pilot light when you’re done. Same applies for the power on electric water heaters, turn the breaker to the heater off, not the main breaker for the house. The purpose is to keep the gas burner or electrical elements from cutting on while the heater is empty.

  3. Johnnie Stewart Says:
    November 3rd, 2010 at 8:32 pm

    Dear Danny Lipford,
    Any suggestions on how to drain the hot water heater when it is in the basement below grade (not a walk out)?
    Thanks,
    Johnnie stewart

  4. Official Comment:

    Ben Erickson Says:
    November 4th, 2010 at 7:37 pm

    Hi Johnnie,
    If you have a drain in your basement floor or a bathroom in the basement, you could drain the water heater into it. Otherwise, you would have to let the water in the heater cool, then full buckets and carry it out. Good luck with your project!

  5. Karen Says:
    November 11th, 2010 at 12:59 pm

    Dear Danny Lipford,

    My hot water heater is attached to my oil burner. Is there a similar switch that I should turn off before emptying my hot water heater? Thanks.

  6. Official Comment:

    Ben Erickson Says:
    November 17th, 2010 at 8:51 am

    Hi Karen,
    I’m not familiar with that type of set up, but in any case, I would put your oil burner on pilot or standby when draining your water heater to keep it from heating up while the water heater is empty. Good luck with your project!

  7. Mia Jerry Says:
    February 10th, 2011 at 9:00 am

    I am not sure if this is normal but my hot water heater which is gas drains constantly, the water heater is outside under the house so it drains into the yard. is this normal my contractor who installed it says it is but i am not so sure.

  8. Official Comment:

    Ben Erickson Says:
    February 10th, 2011 at 12:38 pm

    Hi Mia,
    I’ve never heard of a hot water heater that drains constantly being normal. It should be a closed loop that only drains when you open the valve or if the pressure builds up too much and causes the pressure relief valve to open. It sounds like either the drain valve or the pressure relief valve are leaking and one or the other probably needs to be replaced. To find out how to replace a pressure relief valve, check out our article How to Repair a Leaking Water Heater Pressure Relief Valve. Good luck!

  9. Barbara Berg Says:
    April 7th, 2011 at 4:50 pm

    Thank you so much for your info on draining and re seating my pressure valve you may have just saved us another $500.

  10. Steve Partridge Says:
    June 27th, 2011 at 2:41 pm

    Danny,

    Your site says to never drain water when it is hot. We have an electic water heater. Do you just turn it off and wait for the water to cool down? If so, how long?

  11. thomas Says:
    July 7th, 2011 at 5:31 pm

    i bought a new elec water heater and replaced the plastic drain valve with a brass one when i installed it. i put a hose on the valve and turned the knob but no water will come out of the tank. not even a drop. i thought i was doing right since my old heater with a plastic valve leaked all the time . got any ideas.

  12. Official Comment:

    Ben Erickson Says:
    July 19th, 2011 at 9:19 am

    Hi Steve,
    The reason you should cool the hot water in the tank down before draining is that garden hoses are not usually designed for very hot water. Also, hot water can kill plants or grass in your yard. Just turn of the power to the water heater, then run the hot water in the house (or take a shower) until it cools down some before draining the water heater. Good luck with your project!

  13. Greg Says:
    October 24th, 2011 at 8:41 am

    I am having no luck draining a hot water tank at a camp, that pulls from a very hard, sediment prone water supply. I drain the tank every year for the winter, but this year nothing will drain out. Do you think there a lot of sediment buildup? How do I drain the tank that is totally blocked? Can I feed a coathanger thru the valve to clear a way? I am afraid I will ruin the valve and not be able to stop the flow onto the floor if it should free up. Thanks.

  14. edward Says:
    December 7th, 2012 at 7:27 pm

    My water heater in in my attic to a 2 storey house, any advice on how to drain it.

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