If you want your water heater to last, use as little energy as possible, and produce high-quality hot water, then you will need to maintain it. Perhaps the most important maintenance procedure for your water heater is also the simplest: flushing it out. Flushing your water heater is extremely easy—so easy the average person can do it with tools they more than likely have lying around their home. And if you follow these simple steps, you’ll have the job done in no more than an hour or so.
(Note: These steps are for a conventional tank-style water heater. Tankless water heaters do need to be flushed annually, but this is best performed by a licensed professional, as the process is significantly different and requires additional training to do properly.)
Step 1: Shut Off Utility Connections
The first step when flushing your water heater should be to shut off your water heater’s utility connections, including gas, electrical, and water. Your water connection is probably the easiest to shut off: find the valve on the water line that leads into your tank and turn it clockwise. Next, shut off the gas line by finding the valve on the line that feeds your heating element and closing it. Finally, shut off the electricity to your water heater by flipping off the circuit breaker that your tank is connected to.
Step 2: Drain the Tank
Now that your water heater is fully shut off, it’s time to start draining your tank and flushing out the sediment that has built up at the bottom. Grab a garden hose and connect it to the drain valve located towards the bottom of your tank. Make sure this connection is good and tight to avoid accidentally leaking water (using Teflon plumber’s tape to help seal the connection isn’t a bad idea if you have any lying around).
Once your hose is connected, point it somewhere that you can safely dispose of a lot of water, such as a storm or perimeter drain that connects to your city’s storm drain system. Make sure the hose is secure and won’t accidentally leak back into your home or into your home’s foundation. Then, open the drain valve and let the water start flowing out. It will take several minutes for all of the water to drain out, and keep an eye out for chunks of sediment in the water.
Step 3: Inspect Your Anode Rod
Once water flow has stopped and your tank is empty, its’ time to inspect your anode rod. Anode rods are consumable metal rods that are sacrificed to prevent the water in your tank from eating away at the tank itself. Anode rods will generally need to be replaced roughly every three years or so, but it’s important to check them around every six months to make sure nothing significant has changed.
Checking your anode rod is fairly simple. They are generally located near the top of your tank and will usually have electrical leads attached to them. Use a wrench, sockets, or screwdriver to loosen the cover on your rod and then disconnect the electrical lines feeding the rod. From there, the rod should come out of your tank (you might have to turn it to do so). So long as your rod isn’t showing any signs of major corrosion or significant damage, feel free to place it back in your tank again. If your rod is showing any major signs of damage, replace it.
Step 4: Exercise Your Pressure Release Valve
Every water heater should have a pressure release valve designed to open when internal tank pressure reaches critical levels. However, over time, valves can seize up and fail when needed. This is why we strongly recommend opening and closing your release valve several times in order to loosen it and ensure that it still functions properly. Regularly moving the valve will ensure that moving parts remain able to move and the valve will open when dangerous levels of pressure form in your water heater tank.
Step 5: Turn on Utility Connections Again
Finally, once everything has been secured back in place, your drain valve is closed, and your water heater is ready to be reactivated, it’s time to start turning on your utility lines again. Start with your water connection, turning the valve counter-clockwise to open it and allow water to start pouring into your tank. After a minute or two has passed, open your gas valve to allow fuel to start flowing to your heating elements. Finally, flip on the breaker at your electrical panel. If you left your thermostat in place, your water heater should fire up and start reheating. If you turned your water heater off manually, you may have to turn the thermostat back up and get the pilot light to reignite.If you need a water heater service, pick up the phone and call Moe Plumbing at (818) 396-8002! We offer water heater repair and replacement services throughout Los Angeles County.