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Drain A Water Heater – Taking Precautions To Ensure Maximum Functionality

There comes a time in every setting that it is necessary to drain the water heater. Whatever the purpose may be, water heaters play a major role in the functionality of a home or business. Why is it necessary to drain the water out of a water heater? There are several reasons why a water heater needs to be drained. The first reason is to perform routine maintenance. The second reason is to perform repairs. Read the article below to learn the proper steps of draining a residential or commercial water heater.

Why Drain A Water Heater?

A water heater will need to be drained prior to the following:

Routine Maintenance

Experts recommend at least annual electric heater maintenance. This process begins with an in-depth inspection. Inspect the exterior components, including the inlet and outlet pipes for the hot and cold water. These components should be in good condition and be free of leaks and corrosion. If a leak is detected during the assessment, now is the perfect time to replace the pipes. Do not wait until the inspection is complete to tackle repairs because it could result in more work than necessary.

A gas water heater generally has more components than an electric model. These components include a baffle, flue, dip tube, shut off gas value, temperature control dial, main burner, pilot, draft hood, vent, cold water inlet pipe, and hot water outlet pipe.

Malfunction Diagnosing

A malfunctioning water heater cannot be repaired until all the water is drained out. There are various internal components that could be related to malfunction. These components include the upper and lower elements, upper and lower thermostats, and dip tube. You should know the signs of a malfunctioning water heater thermostat and element before moving forward.

There are a few exceptions to the draining requirement. If you are positive the malfunction is due to a damaged upper thermostat, it may not be necessary to drain the water heater before replacing it. However, it is always best to start every repair with draining.


As mentioned previously, every water heater will need to be completely drained at some point. Whether you are tackling an update or repair, the water may need to be drained in advance. This is especially true for full replacements.

Once your water heater has been in service for eight years, it is time to contemplate a replacement. With this said, some manufacturers guarantee a longer service life than their competitors. However, most brands will not work efficiently after 13 years of service life. 

Experts recommend replacement way before 13 years of service life. If you wait too late, the water heater will malfunction, leaving you with nothing but cold water to shower in.

The full replacement of a water heater starts with draining. Drain all of the water out of the unit before uninstalling. If you fail to do this, you could very well end up with a major mess to clean up.

Water heaters build up pressure when during normal operation. Normally, you would release the pressure utilizing the pressure relief valve. If the unit springs a leak, there will be no need to release the pressure before repairing. Instead, pressurized air and water will spew out of the leak.

Unlike the electric model, the gas model does not have separate thermostats. Instead, the unit has what is known as a gas control valve, which is comprised of a heat limiting mechanism and thermostat.

Cold Water Inlet Clogs

As much as you would like to believe, tiny particles of debris can escape through your plumbing pipes and end up in your water heater’s cold water inlet. This is the pipe that brings tap water into the water heater, so it is vulnerable to clogs.

A clogged inlet will prevent the water heater from filling up. If the water heater is empty on inspection, the problem is probably a clogged inlet. The only way to repair this issue is to remove the cold water pipe. In most cases, the debris causing the clog can be removed and the pipe reinstalled without too much trouble.


Again, it is not always necessary to drain a hot water heater before making repairs. However, most experts recommend draining prior to even minor repairs. Something as minor as the replacement of an upper thermostat may not require complete draining but it can prevent a mess if a mishap occurred during the repair process.

If your water heater is powered by natural gas, you can expect the repairs to be more in-depth than an electric unit. Regardless, of the setup, repairs should begin with a complete draining.

Bi-Annual Flushing

Flushing is the process of draining and cleaning a water heater. The process begins with draining all the water out of the tank. Once the tank is completely empty, it will be time to begin the flushing process. Utilize fresh water to flush the tank, removing any leftover contaminants that could taint your hot water.

Once you learn how to properly drain your water heater, flushing will be a breeze. At least annual flushing is recommended but bi-annual will do so much more for extending the life of the water heater.

Experts believe routine flushing will maximize the life of a water heater. It is also believed to keep the water running operating efficiently.

Know Your Water Mineral Content

Some areas are known for their hard water, which is a result of a high mineral level. Minerals, such as magnesium and calcium, can lead to hard water. The best way to determine if you are going to have hard water issues is to perform a water quality test kit. These kits can be purchased from plumbing shops and some big box stores.

Water quality kits detect contaminants and measure pH and total hardness. The results of in-home water quality kits are generally available within minutes.

The hardness level of water is determined by the mineral content. You always hope to get a soft water result, which is less than 60 milligrams per liter. Moderately hard is not such a terrible result because it is only slightly higher than soft water. The results you do not want to get is hard and very hard, which are double and triple of the soft and moderately hard water results.

Is It Necessary To Drain A Hot Water Heater With A Water Softener?

Draining and flushing are recommended for all hot water heaters. Regardless of the setup, flushing can help maximize the service life of your hot water heater. While soft water systems are beneficial, there is always the possibility of contamination. Even a trace of minerals can lead to hard water and clogs over time.

Routine draining is recommended for hot water heaters with water softeners.

What Role Do Drain Valves Play In Hot Water Heater Flushing?

The drain valve plays a very important role in flushing. Water heater drain valves are constructed from brass and plastic, with the latter being of lower quality. If you ever need to replace your drain valve, replace it with a brass drain valve.

A drain valve allows the water to drain freely from the tank. If there is a malfunction, the water will not drain. In this case, the drain valve must be replaced as soon as possible.

Flushing An Electric And Gas Water Heater – Which Is More More In-Depth?

The flushing for an electric and gas water heater is very similar. It is crucial to disconnect the power going to the water heater first. The second step is to turn the cold water off coming into the water heater. There should be a water cutoff valve on your property, which is generally where the water meter is located. Some homes have a secondary water cut off to avoid the water meter altogether.

Once the power and water supply are turned off, it will be time to move forward to the draining process.

Second Step – Draining The Hot Water Heater

It is recommended to wait until the water inside the tank reaches room temperature. This may take a few hours but it will eliminate the risk of third- and fourth-degree burns.

The temperature setting recommendation for residential hot water heaters is between 120 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. As long as you stay within this range, the water will be hot enough for showers, washing dishes, and other tasks.

  • Begin the draining process by connecting a water hose to the end of the drain valve. The water will run through the water hose to the outside of your home.
  • The next step involves the proper draining of the water in the tank. You can run the water hose to the outside of your home. If you do not have a water hose, you can utilize a bucket, which will require your full attention and frequent emptying.
  • Turn the hot water spigot on to assist with the draining.
  • Open up the drain valve to allow water to flow out of the tank.
  • Release the high-pressure valve before moving forward.
  • Allow the tank to completely empty before flushing.
  • Enable the cold water inlet to flush the tank.
  • Continue flushing the hot water tank until the water runs clear.
  • Close the drain valve and let the tank fill with fresh water.
  • When the tank is completely full, turn the power back on.

Other Recommendations

It never hurts to go the extra step to protect your hot water heater. It is also just as important to protect the areas near the water heater from any unnecessary water exposure.

It is also recommended to keep dry towels nearby just in case of spills.

Draining A Hot Water Heater – How Long Does It Take?

On average, it takes around 5 minutes to drain 10 gallons of water from a hot water heater tank. You can multiple the number of gallons by 5 to determine how long it will take to drain all of the water from your hot water heater. For example, a 50 gallon-hot water tank will take about 25 minutes to completely drain. Now, this does not include the preparation or post-setup, these will take longer.

Hot Water Heater Draining – Minimize Operation Cost

It is a fact that a clogged cold water inlet can make a hot water heater perform harder. It can also damage the internal components if left unattended for any amount of time. A fully-functional hot water heater will utilize less power than a malfunctioning unit.

Money-Saving Tips For Hot Water Heaters

It is possible to minimize the operating expenses by switching from a traditional hot water heater to a tankless unit. Making timely repairs can also help reduce your overall operating expenses.

One more way to keep your energy usage minimal is to decrease the recommended hot water heater temperature by at least 10 degrees Fahrenheit. The lower temperature will not make much of a difference when it comes to hot water. But, it can help reduce your operation costs between 3 and 5 percent.

Is It Necessary To Empty A Tankless Hot Water Heater?

Tankless hot water heaters do not have a storage tank. However, routine flushing is still a necessity to ensure efficiency on all levels. To flush a tankless hot water heater, you can start by switching off the power source.

The second step of the process involves the inlet water valve. Tankless water heaters generally have a water valve for cold water, another for hot water, and last but not least, a water valve that is utilized to divert water to the inside of the home.

Next, you will need to remove all three water valve caps, then turn the valves to a 90-degree angle, so they are perpendicular to the supply lines.

Utilize undiluted white vinegar or a compatible cleaning solution to flush your tankless water heater. Follow the manufacturer’s directions to finish the flushing process.

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