The single most important thing you can do to keep your water heater healthy is to drain the tank regularly. But how often should you drain your water heater? And why is it so important?
This article will explain why it’s so important to drain your tank, symptoms to be on the look out for, as well as a quick overview on how to drain your water heater tank. Performing this relatively easy task will add years of service life to your water heater.
Why Drain a Water Heater
Your water heater is likely tucked in a corner or closet quietly supplying your household with hot water. If fact, you might not even think about your water heater until you notice it isn’t heating your water anymore.
Giving your water heater a little attention every so often can add years to its service life. In fact, draining your tank should be a top priority if you want your water heater to last.
With normal use, sediment builds at the bottom of the tank. If the sediment isn’t flushed out, it will:
- Lower Efficiency – The water heater will need to work harder in order to deliver hot water. This will not only increase your utility costs, but also place more wear-and-tear on the unit and it’s components, and ultimately reduce it’s service life.
- Tank Corrosion – The sediment at the bottom of the tank will eventually cause the tank to corrode from the inside. If the water heater develops a leak from the tank, there is no way to repair it. Your only option is to purchase a new water heater.
- Clogs – The valves within the tank of the water heater may clog. This can eventually lead to leaks and other damage. An important safety device is the T&P valve that prevents too much pressure from building within the tank. It’s not uncommon for the T&P valve to develop scale build-up or become clogged with sediment. Flushing your tank and your T&P valve will help ensure the valve is properly working. In addition, the drain valve can also clog and develop leaks.
How Often Do Water Heaters Need to Be Drained?
Knowing how frequently you need to drain your water heater is an important part of a regular maintenance schedule.
The number one factor that’ll determine how frequently your water heater needs to be drained is the amount of sediment that builds up over a period of time within the tank.
To determine the amount of sediment in your water heater’s tank, attach a nylon stocking to the end of the garden hose using a wire or rubber band.
As the water runs through the hose, the nylon will filter out the sediment.
Once you’re finished flushing, check the amount of sediment in the nylon. If there’s about a Tablespoon of sediment, your schedule is fine. However, if there’s more, you’ll need to flush more frequently.
It’s important to note, that if you live in an area with hard water, you should drain your tank more frequently. Hard water contains more minerals than soft water.
When the water is heated the minerals separate and fall to the bottom of the tank. Sediment is largely made up of minerals and other debris.
As a general rule, water heaters should be drained every 6 to 12 months. However, if you go several years without draining your water heater tank, you may create a bigger problem.
If the sediment has become encrusted within the tank, once its loosened, the inner tank may become weak and even corrosive. This could cause your water heater the prematurely rust.
We highly recommend hiring a professional plumber to drain your tank if it’s been a few years.
Symptoms of Sediment in Your Water Heater
Unfortunately, there’s no way around sediment, and as your water heater performs it’s job it’ll begin to accumulate at the bottom of the tank.
You may not initially notice the symptoms of sediment build-up as they often aren’t obvious. But over time, they can create a great deal of harm to your water heater.
Here a few common signs that your water heater tank needs to be drained to remove the sediment:
If you notice any of these symptoms, you may be able to drain the water heater and make the necessary repairs. However, in some situations, the damage may have already been done and you’ll need to purchase a new water heater.
How to Drain a Water Heater
Here’s a quick outline of how to drain a hot water heater. However, if you’d like more details, please read our full article HERE.
- Turn off the water heater and shut off the cold water supply valve
- Open a hot water tap
- Connect a garden hose to the drain valve and run the other end outside or to a drain
- Open the drain valve, use caution, the water will be hot. If the drain valve is clogged read this article
- Turn on the cold water supply valve. Allow it to run for several minutes to flush out the sediment
- Close the drain valve when the water is clear and sediment free
- Once the tank fills with cold water, close the tap and turn the water heater on
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