Hot water heaters are among some of the most maintenance free of home appliances. They nevertheless, will at some time in their lifecycle require draining. This may be necessary in order to replace the heating elements, to clean out lime or any other water deposits from the tank, or before the replacement of the unit itself. This is true for either electric or gas heated units.


Water heater drainingCredit: flickr.comThe very first step in this process is to switch off the electrical power supply of the unit. If it is gas powered, then turn off the gas supply. The use of an electrical tester of sorts is highly recommended to make absolutely sure that the circuit is not alive. It cannot be overemphasized that water and electricity can be a dangerous combination. If you are not totally sure of the breaker or circuit that is responsible for controlling the unit you can the extra precaution of turning off the main breaker.


Step number two involves the cutting off water supply to the water heater. Normally a valve located between the cold water supply and the heater itself can be used for this purpose. It is vital that the water is not still pressurizing the tank as you are attempting to empty it. If this valve is leaking, you may need to cut the supply from outside or at the main valve. If your water supply is from a utility company, then a worker from the company may be needed for this to be accomplished.

A typical hot water heater should have a drain faucet located at the base of the unit. This is Water heater maintenanceCredit: flickr.comquite similar to a normal outdoor faucet and is not much different in its operation. The purpose of making this connection is to allow for the use of a water to drain out the water either outdoors or into another container. It is important for the hose to be positioned lower than the tank if the water is to be drained effectively.


After the hose has been attached, open the drain valve and the water will start to drain quickly at first until the water pressure drops which will cause the flow to slow down. At this stage the tank will need to be able to breathe in some air so that the water can continue to drain. One way to go about this is to open one or two hot water taps so that air can be sucked into the tank. Another method is to flip up the little safety pop off valve which will also allow air to enter the tank.


Hot water heater flushingCredit: flickr.comIf the tank is located upstairs, the drain hose works very well due to the difference in elevation. In such a case, the time required to drain a tank could be very short. But in most cases it could take up to an hour subject to how well the air is allowed to enter into the tank. If you can hear the tank gurgling as it struggles to take in air as fast as it is releasing water, then the air intake is not very adequate. Try opening up other taps to  allow more air into the heater.

After the tank has been totally emptied, make sure that all of the taps previously used for air intake are closed. Turn on the water supply and check carefully for any leaks. If no leaks are found then turn on the hot water side of a faucet and allow it run until such a time that no air is being expelled from the tap.


Run this tap longer than is necessary to ensure that there are no air bubbles clinging onto the electrical elements in the heater. Just one bubble of air clinging to the elements will result in a burn out of the element requiring the draining of the water again. Carry out one final check for any leaks and the job is finished.


Water heater drainingCredit: flickr.comIt is quite possible for the drain valve to stick some times and it is not always a fast routine
to drain out a hot water tank.  There is really no reason why you cannot do this by yourself and save some little money and time.