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To Drain or Not to Drain--Your Hot Water Heater

Spring is here, and with it comes a flurry of chores as the residents of Phoenix prepare to hunker down in our air conditioned houses for the summer.  A question we hear often is, “Do I really need to drain my hot water heater tank every year?” (A whining voice is optional.)

In all honesty--that depends.

Each hot water tank is different depending on factors that not only include which area of the Valley you live in, but also whether or not your tank has a hydro-jet to reduce sediment buildup.

Your water travels through various filters and screens on its way to your home. The quantity and quality of these depend largely on where you live. In addition, sometimes there will be a break or your particular area may ‘flush out’ their lines, which means it comes your way. 

The bottom line is this:

You won’t know how often to drain your hot water tank until you actually do it to see how much sediment has built up in the meantime. In some tanks, it’s almost nothing. Other tanks can accumulate several inches of sediment--enough to block the spigot--in the same amount of time. After you drain it the first time, you’ll have a pretty good idea of how fast the sediment collects, unless you happen to be in an area of the Valley where there is a break or they flush the water line--in which case, the tank could have a large amount of sediment suddenly appear.

After this hot water heater leaked, it was dissembled. You can see how much sediment ends up in and near the drain valve.

After this hot water heater leaked, it was dissembled. You can see how much sediment ends up in and near the drain valve.

Some hot water heater manufacturers recommend only draining off about a gallon of water, but suggest doing so once a month.

Some people never drain their hot water heater tank. What happens?

They may have sediment at the bottom of their tank. It might be a little or a lot. The sediment interferes with the heating ability of the tank and makes it work harder to heat the water. 

Here is a general guideline of how it’s done. Consult your hot water heater manual for specifics:

  1. Get a hose. One with a rubber gasket in it is best, to help avoid leakage at the hose connection.
  2. Turn off the power to the hot water heater. This is not optional because you can burn up your hot water heater if you don’t shut it off.
  3. Turn off the water going into the hot water heater. Otherwise, it will continue to be replaced as it drains.
  4. Let the tank cool. How long this takes depends on the size of the tank, amount of insulation, and the temperature of the water in the tank when you started. Some people only need to wait a few hours. Others wait overnight. 
  5. Connect the hose to the drain valve, which is a spigot at the bottom of the hot water tank, and run the other end someplace where it’s reasonable to let the water drain. Since the water will have sediment in it, you would be better off not draining it into your garden or anyplace where you have plant material which might be sensitive to calcium. 
  6. Turn on a hot water faucet somewhere in your home. It will act as a relief valve and hasten the flow of the water from the drain spigot.
  7. Turn on the drain spigot. Let it run until the tank is empty. Most of these spigots are angled and poorly designed to remove the sediment--remember, they’re designed by the hot water tank manufacturers, who are much more interested in sales than good hot water heater maintenance!
  8. Turn the water to the tank back on while the drain spigot is still open to remove any remaining sediment. Once the water runs clear from the end of the hose, you can close the valve to allow the tank to heat up.
  9. Shut the hot water faucet off (the one you opened in your house).
  10. When the tank is full, turn the water heater back on

This simple process can add years of life to your hot water heater.

While draining your hot water heater, if you notice a leak or some other type of problem, or if you’d rather have a professional drain the tank for you, let us know.  We’ll be happy to schedule a visit.
 

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