Water heaters, like any other home appliance, need a bit of maintenance from time to time. The worst time to have your water heater stop working is during the middle of winter- I’m sure all of us have had this happen at one time or another. You dream of a hot shower all day, only to be pelted by freezing cold water that doesn’t warm up. While a variety of factors can cause your water heater to do this (for instance, sometimes the temperature merely gets turned down by accident,) a water heater that is not producing hot water is often a sign that you need to replace your unit. Replacing a water heater unit can be pricey, and most people want to avoid having to do this. Rest assured, however: there are measures you can take to prolong the life of your water heater- such as taking the time to drain your water heater at least once a year.
If you’re like most people, draining your water heating unit is not something you were taught to do growing up. Draining the water heater tank annually removes sediment that has built up on the inside of the unit, extending the life of your water heater. Luckily emptying out the tank isn’t too hard to do- in fact, it can be done simply by following four easy steps.
Step One: Turn off the Water Supply
If your water heater runs off of gas, be sure to turn the thermostat down to the “pilot” setting. If it’s an electrical unit, cut off the power supply at the breaker box. Locate the drain valve next to the thermostat, and connect a hose- but don’t open the valve just yet. You’ll need to turn off the water supply that feeds the water heater before draining it.
Step Two: Drain the Water From the Water Heating Unit
To prevent a vacuum from forming in the lines to the water heater, go inside your house and turn on the hot water faucet in either a sink or tub. Return to the water heater; open the valve with the hose connected to it in order to drain all hot water out of the tank. Point the end of the hose someplace that won’t be damaged by hot water- such as an outside driveway or sidewalk.
Step Three: Flush Out Any Sediment
Once the water stops running from the hose, it’s safe to turn the water supply to the tank back on. This flushes out any remaining sediment or calcium build up that is left in the water heater. When the water flowing from the end of the hose runs clear, close the drain valve. Make sure not to forget to turn off the hot water faucet inside your house!
Some heating units will blow out their heating element when there’s no water in the tank. Some water heater tanks require a full tank in order to work properly and prevent damage to the unit. Each tank varies, which is why it is ALWAYS important to throroughly read the warnings and instructions on your tank’s labels!
Step Four: Test the Pressure Valve
Once the tank has refilled with water, turn the power supply back on- either at the thermostat or the breaker box. Wait until the temperature has gone back up to the standard temp within the unit before testing the pressure-relief valve. ALWAYS follow the manufacturers instructions for doing this last step! The pressure-relief valve is a safety-device designed to prevent overheating or excess pressure build-up within the unit. If you suspect there’s anything faulty with the pressure-relief valve, contact a plumber right away!
Taking proper care of your water heater can help prolong it’s life for a good number of years. Draining and changing out the water in your hot water tank should be done at least annually. A good time to do so would be around the first of the year, or in spring if the weather doesn’t permit to do so before then. Remember to always keep small children and animals away from your water heater- especially while you’re working on it!