How-To Videos

How to Drain a Water Heater

By: Danny Lipford

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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37 Comments on “How to Drain a Water Heater”

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  • Official Comment:

    Thomas Boni Says:
    March 16th, 2019 at 7:09 pm

    Hi, Dave!
    We recommend sticking with this method for optimal results.
    Thanks for your question.

  • Dave Says:
    March 15th, 2019 at 3:17 pm

    Can I drain a hot water heater by turning off the cold water and turning on a faucet instead of hooking a hose to the drain valve?

  • Official Comment:

    Thomas Boni Says:
    February 1st, 2019 at 10:47 am

    Hi, John,
    We don’t see why a properly drained water heater couldn’t be allowed to sit empty as long as needed.
    But there are different types of water heaters and tanks, so we recommend contacting the appliance’s manufacturer or a plumber for an opinion based on your specific equipment.
    Good luck!

  • John Torres Says:
    January 30th, 2019 at 3:13 am

    if you discharge the water in the Water Heater tank, how many is the maximum days for it to re install? because we need to renovate a room and need to remove the water heater.

  • Mark koenig Says:
    January 5th, 2019 at 4:59 pm

    I replaced electric water heater,been 2 hours water not hot, PS. Electric working

  • KK Says:
    January 4th, 2019 at 11:30 am

    I have an electric water heater and no water comes out from the drain valve when I follow the steps.
    I tried turning the cold water supply on, and then the water started coming out of the drain valve.
    I turned off the cold water supply valve again and tried again but no water comes out.

    I don’t think the valve is clogged because water comes out when the cold water supply valve is on, so I’m very confused what’s the problem.
    If anyone has any insight, that would be appreciated.

  • Angela Says:
    November 25th, 2018 at 10:33 am

    How do I know when the tank is full?

  • erwin r seum Says:
    June 15th, 2018 at 2:05 pm

    water is barely coming out of my hose connection , tks

  • Janet Says:
    May 28th, 2018 at 12:36 pm

    I ha ‘ve 2 pipes with taps. On how do I know which one to attach the hose too.

  • Steve Says:
    April 28th, 2018 at 3:13 pm

    A tip if your pressure relief valve is on the side of your tank, like mine.
    Don’t open it to break the vacuum–water will drain from it until the level is below the valve. Instead, simply open one of your hot water faucets inside the house.

  • Don Schultz Says:
    March 9th, 2018 at 9:01 pm

    Hi, I am in the process of replacing my hot water heater; the supply line is shut off but I have water feeding back into the heater from the hot water outlet line. Is this normal? I thought it might be from the hot water lines in the house but it’s been draining for several hours.

  • Official Comment:

    Thomas Boni Says:
    March 15th, 2018 at 10:36 am

    Hi, John T.,
    Here’s “Today’s Homeowner” host Danny Lipford’s answer to your question:

    “Most likely, the aerator that is attached to the end of the faucet spout may have gotten clogged. Simply unscrew, soak in vinegar and reinstall after 30 minutes or so, and you should be fine.”

    Thanks for writing to us!

  • john t. Says:
    February 22nd, 2018 at 8:59 pm

    after draining the tank, all faucets have flowing water except the 2 bathroom sink faucets,, what caused that?

  • Official Comment:

    Thomas Boni Says:
    March 15th, 2018 at 10:55 am

    Hi, Robert,
    Here’s “Today’s Homeowner” host Danny Lipford’s answer to your question:
    “It is possible that your drain spout is not releasing the water, but more commonly, it’s the pressure relief valve that has to be released to prevent a vacuum stop of the water.”
    Thanks for your question.

  • Robertrudder Says:
    February 16th, 2018 at 1:50 pm

    Went through all the steps no water will come out what do you think

  • Evelyn Says:
    September 21st, 2017 at 3:49 pm

    What is the best way to take the calcificaton off of the drain so it can be turned?

  • hamza Says:
    June 20th, 2017 at 11:33 am

    Thank you so much for your info on draining and re seating my pressure valve you may have just saved us another $300.

  • ruth dickey Says:
    May 14th, 2017 at 2:45 am

    We cannot get the hose on our water heater. There is no room, the cold pex line is right in the way. Do we, plumber, have to unhook the cold brass line from the pex cold line there, just to get some room for hose adapter, to drain it? And the drain valve is plastic, so very carefully. We live in mobile home, no room for blunders, from any plumber. It looks like to me this is the only way, cause not even 2 strong guys, will be able to move this, approx. 1 inch to the right, with 40 gal. of water in it, just to get the hose on?

  • John Kizer Says:
    February 23rd, 2017 at 4:22 pm

    Have you ever heard of someone feeding the cold water to the drain input (with appropriate connections added for draining) and plugging the old cold water feed on a residential water heater?

    It is frustrating to not be able to find a dip tube for a GE heater.

  • Richard Clayton Says:
    January 25th, 2017 at 12:03 pm

    My water heater is electric and it will produce hot water for a while then the breaker pops off and I have to go down and flip the switch to get hot water again. Can a bad element cause this to happen? thanks

  • Peter Carlson Says:
    October 2nd, 2016 at 7:37 pm

    My hot water heater is 16 years old and has never been drained. Is it prudent to drain it at this point? Am I living on borrowed time?

  • Papa Says:
    September 1st, 2016 at 3:52 pm

    You really don’t need to turn the gas off. Just turn it ti pilot and wait a few hours and the water will be cool. Next, use a bucket and fill it from the drain valve and dump it in the floor drain or wash tub. Do this for half the capacity of the tank. Do this once a year and your water heater will last indefinitely. Mine is on its 22nd year.

  • Jim Holley Says:
    March 22nd, 2015 at 4:02 pm

    Is there an inexpensive pump available that could pull the water from my basement water heater (once cooled) through a window approximately 4 ft. higher? I don’t have a drain or other option in the basement.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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!

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


    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?

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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)?
    Johnnie stewart

  • 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.

  • 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.


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How to Drain a Water Heater