Sunday, March 3, 2013

How to Drain a Water Heater

Easily one of the most neglected plumbing fixtures in the home, the water heater is an afterthought for most people until it breaks down or stops doing its job – giving us hot water at a moment’s notice. But the truth of matter is this – water heaters need regular maintenance. They are energy hogs already, but without a little TLC, they can become a huge burden on your home, and water heater replacement is no cheap undertaking. One of the ways to keep up with your water heater is to drain it at least once per year. Here’s how to do it: 1) Turn off the power supply Depending on what kind of hot water heater you have, gas or electric, you will have to turn off the water and power differently. For an electric water heater, you’ll need to turn off the power supply at the breaker box. For a gas water heater, turn off the power by switching the thermostat to “pilot” mode. Next you’ll want to connect a typical garden hose to the drain valve at the bottom of the water heater. You’ll want the other end of the hose to go outside somewhere. You don’t want all that water draining into your basement or attic. DO NOT open the valve yet, though. First, you need to turn off the cold-water supply to the water heater. 2) Drain the hot water Before you actually start draining the water heater, you’ll want to turn on some hot water in your house. Any faucet works, and it’s got to be hot water. By doing this, you can prevent a vacuum from forming in the lines. Now you need to go back and open the drain valve. This will drain the hot water out of the tank. Remember, make sure your house goes somewhere outside. 3) Flush remaining sediment After water stops flowing out the other end of hose, it’s time to get to the good stuff. Turn the water supply back on. This will clear any remaining sediment stuck in the water heater. This is the most important part of the maintenance to your water heater. After the rest of the water has drained from the other end of the hose, close the drain valve. Also be sure to turn off that faucet you turned on earlier. This is IMPORTANT: Depending on what type of hot water heater you have, your heating element could blow if there is no water in the tank while there is running water. You can avoid this by turning off the faucet shortly before your tank completely drains, or you can be sure to read the warnings and instructions on the tank label (recommended). 4) Test pressure-release valve Turn on the power supply for the water heater (it will be at the circuit breaker for an electric water heater and the thermostat on a gas water heater) after the tank has refilled with water. After the water temperature is back to normal, you’ll need to test the pressure-relief valve. The manufacturer’s instructions will let you know what to do. This step is different with each brand of water heater. It’s important that you actually test this, though, because this little mechanism is designed to prevent excess pressure build-up or overheating inside the tank. If it doesn’t appear to be in working order, you’ll need to get it replaced by a licensed plumber. Draining your water heater is crucial to having it run as efficiently as possible. Your home and the environment will thank you later. And, though this is a fairly easy project to complete by yourself, if you are uncomfortable completing any of the above tasks, don’t hesitate to call a licensed plumber for help. Guest Post By: Diane Kuehl is a home improvement professional and owner of DIY Mother. She lives in Springfield, Illinois with her husband and two kids.

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