How to drain a water heater

Simple steps will make it easy

Draining a hot water heater is something that only needs to be done once in a while. Yet, when the occasion arises, if someone doesn’t know how, it can be intimidating.

These occasions may include malfunctions in the water heater itself or other times when replacement with a new one might be necessary (such as for energy efficiency). Semi-annual maintenance is another reason to drain it, or even to avoid it freezing when closing a house up for the winter.

Needless to say, being intimidated is unnecessary. The process is really much simpler than one might think. Still, there are some important steps to take in order to avoid any unnecessary difficulties.


Step 1

Turn off power supply to hot water heater.

Depending upon whether the hot water heater is gas or electric, this can entail either unplugging it, turning the breaker off at the breaker box, or shutting off the gas supply to the unit. It is important to wait for the water to cool in order to avoid potentially getting burned when draining it, or other issues.

Step 2

Turn off the water leading to the hot water heater.

If you’re not sure where this is, look at the pipes coming out of the top of the water heater and follow them. Often there will be a shut-off valve located somewhere along the pipeline. The handle for this can look like something you would see on an outside water spigot where you would attach a hose, or an older style can look like the knobs used to turn on the water in an old bathroom sink.

Newer ones will often be just a straight bar jutting out from the pipe. This type only turns two ways, one to align straight with the pipe, and one to turn and look like an "L" with it. It will usually be covered in rubber, and the "L" position will generally be the "off" position.

If no shut-off valve is apparent on the water line, then the water main to the house will need to be shut off.

Step 3

Locate the drain spigot on the hot water heater.

This will generally be easy to spot, and will be located at the bottom near the front of the unit. It is really unmistakably a water spigot, just like you would find on the outside of a house where you would attach a garden hose, so is easy to identify. The difference will be that it has no handle for turning the water on and off.

Step 4

Attach a hose to the spigot.

Once the hose is attached to the hot water heater, the water will need to go somewhere. If a bathroom is nearby, the other end of the hose can be placed into a sink or shower. It can also drain down a clothes washer pipe. If none of these are handy, it can be stuck out a window if one is available.

Step 5

Open the drain.

This works nicely with a flat head screwdriver as it will easily fit into the slot on top of the spigot (just like with a screw). Generally, all it will take is a small twist and the water will begin to flow. The the water will then drain all on it’s own. When the flow stops, its through!

Things Needed
• Garden hose
• Flat head screwdriver

Tips & Warnings
• Be sure to shut off the hot water heater before starting, and to give water time to cool before draining.
• Knowing where water shut-offs are, and deciding where the water will drain to in advance is helpful.
• Depending upon the age of a hot water heater, the valve set up may look a little bit different, though most are quite similar.


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