Water Heater Maintenance




Very few people know that in order to keep your water heater running properly and efficiently very simple maintenace procedures need to be performed. (These come with the instructions and are often overlooked.)

As water is pumped into your water heater tank dirt, sediment and various minerals settle on the bottom. Depending on your water quality these extra "ingredients" can add up rather quickly robbing your water heater's efficiency and costing you in the long run. If left unchecked they can not only make your water heater work harder but also allow your tank to rust and slowly be eaten away until you need to replace the entire unit which is very costly yet easily preventable. And cheap to prevent! You just need a hose, bucket (optional) and gloves (optional too, but safer with.)

This Instructable will show you how to perform a simple yearly draining of your water heater to keep it running smoothly.

Step 1: Locate Water Heater

First off, you need to know where your water heater is. This should be very simple. It should be located in your garage.

Be careful! You are going to be dealing with gas/electricity and very hot water and steam.

Step 2: Determine If It's Gas or Electric

This should be simple enough. Look around the tank itself and read any warnings and labels. If you can't determine one sure fire indication is if there is a pilot light odds are it's gas. Mine is gas operated.

Note: Read the instruction on the tank for turning off the gas and or electricity. Don't just do it unless you know what you are doing.

Step 3: Locate Water Shut Off Valve, Pressure Release Valve, & Water Drain

The water shut off valve is located on the top of the water heater. It typically looks like the circular water valves used for front and back yards.

The pressure release valve is located on the top as well. It should have labeling near it. There is piping that leads out of the water heater and into the wall. On the other side of the wall should the the continuation of this piping. It is typically in the front yard or entry way. Make sure it is not obstructed. This is very important.

The water drain is located on the bottom. It is usually a simple spout that has threads so that a hose can be attached. (These threads will be needed for later.)

Step 4: Turn Off Heating Source and Gather Supplies

Now that you know where your water heater is and what it operates with (gas or electric) you are ready to perform it's yearly maintenance. Be sure to turn off the gas to the water heater (if gas) or shut off the circuit breaker if electric. (Again, read instructions carefully.) I did this the night before. This saves the energy it takes to warm the water that you will soon be draining. No need to heat water you won't be using.

Get a hose.

Get a bucket.

Get some gloves to protect you from possible hot steam and or water.

Step 5: Turn Off Water & Attach Hose

Like the title says, turn off the water to the water heater and attach the hose to the water drain.

Step 6: Turn on Water Drain & Then Open Pressure Release Valve

Next you will want to turn on the water drain to release the water from the water heater tank.

The water will drain from the hose and then slowly stop. This is because the pressure release valve needs to be opened to allow air into the tank. A vacuum has been formed and no additional water will be drained from the tank until the vacuum is opened up and removed.

Don't worry if the water is a little dirty as first. That is from all the dirt and sediment that has built up. This is the reason why you are draining it. Get all that stuff out!

Wait 10 - 30 minutes to allow all the water to drain.

Step 7: Turn on the Water to Flush the Rest of the Sediment Out.

Turn off the water drain and remove the hose.

Take the bucket and place below the water drain.

With pressure valve still open turn on the water to the water tank and then turn on the water drain to allow the rest of the sediment to be flushed out. Allow a few gallons worth of water to drain. Be sure to check the water draining out and make sure it is clear. If it is then you are set to refill the tank.

Step 8: Refilling the Tank

Make sure the water drain at the base of the tank is turned off.

Close the pressure release valve.

Turn on the water to allow the tank to be filled.

Once the tank is full you can turn the gas or circuit breaker back on. Caution: Do not turn the heating unit on until the tank is full. If the tank is not full it can cause heating damage to the unit.

Sit back, relax, and enjoy your nice hot water that will be flowing and heating you more efficiently. You got a full year to wait and perform this maintenance again.

Note 1: If you want you can drain a few gallons a month from your tank especially if you live an an area with a lot of sediment in your water. You don't need the hose. Just use the bucket for this month to month maintenace.

Note 2: If you experience any leaks in the water valves or pressure valves be sure that they are tightened correctly. There is a packing nut just below the knob that can be tightened if needed. If the leaking persists then there is a good chance they haven't been used enough and need to be replaced. So be sure to perform this routine maintenace to keep the valve working properly as well!

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    20 Discussions


    6 months ago

    You owe me $500. I had to invite a plumber and even he could not locate the heater in my garage. In fact, I don't even have a garage and heater is in the basement.

    If you r writing your instructions '4 dummies' u better b careful with words.


    2 years ago

    The tenants left my rent house and had the water turned off 2 months ago. The house will be empty and the water off until I sell it.
    I will follow your instrustions to drain the tank, but since there is no water at this house, I cannot flush out the left over sediment as instructed. Should I just turn off the electricity and wait until I have water again?


    3 years ago


    Wow it was awesome idea about Water heater. it is very helful for all water heater users. Hope evry body will read it. its a fantastic and valuable post


    6 years ago on Step 5

    Flushing your hot water heater is all well and good, but don't do only this and expect your hot water heater to survive a long time. The sacraficial anode is a far more important factor to extending the life of your water heater than flushing it every year.

    The good thing though is that if you're already flushing your water heater so often, every year, you can easily just check the anode at the same time and replace it as necessary. Oh and use magnesium anodes, not aluminum.

    1 reply

    Reply 3 years ago

    I agree Loltax when your flushing your water heater tank why not change the bottom and top anode rods if they need changing of course . But its a good time to check if they are still in good condition.


    3 years ago

    what sort of results can i expect from draining my geyser on a yearly basis, will it lower my electricity cost by any chance? what would a trained professional plumber charge to do this?

    1 reply

    Reply 3 years ago

    Draining your water heater will keep all the build up sediment from inside your water heater out. reducing internal rust prolonging your water heater life ..


    5 years ago on Step 8

    how do you know when the tank is full ?


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Besides doing the maintenance suggested in the instructable, I suggest that if you ever have to purchase a new water heater always tape the receipt to it. I have had two water heaters replaced as most have a fairly long warranty. One of them was about 3 days away from expiring and Lowe's replaced it no problem.


    9 years ago on Step 3

    Well, after reading your instructable, I cleaned my heather!!! My water heather is a thermos one, it means that It heaths the incoming water AND stores it hot until used. Those heathers have another item that's CRUCIAL : the "sacrifice anode" !! The job of this anode is to sacrifice corroding itself in order for the thermos tank to remain (almost) intact of corrosion.I don't know if the normal (non-thermos) heathers use such kind of device.... It could be accessed in the top, near the chimney, and is visible only as a big bolt, some 22mm to 25mm depending of the brand/model of heather. You MUST cut the incoming water flux, and unscrew that bolt. Then, pull out the anode, which is (as new) a long rod, almost the height of the heather and (new) almost 20mm diameter That rod will be, certainly, corroded more or less, depending of the time It was there, and the particular chemical condition of the local water. It's as simple as replacing the rod with one according to the brand/model of heather. Typically, any rod will serve it's purpose for some 4...5 years. I , once, saw a rod that was untouched for..20 years!!! It was only a thin wire left under a lot of corrosion "powder" I hope that this information, will serve a lot of people, along with TheOneAndOnlyMrP's excellent instructable! Thanks a lot !

    3 replies

    7 years ago on Step 8

    You're only draining the tank via gravity. You could vastly increase the flushing action by giving it a "power flush." After partially draining the tank (before you open the pressure relief valve), close the drain valve. Then open the pressure relief valve to reduce the vacuum. Here is the secret step: open the fill valve to pressurize the heater. You'll hear the water filling the tank. Once the sound stops, you'll have a tank that is mostly filled with water, but with a high-pressure air "bubble" at the top. The whole tank is now pressurized to the same pressure as your incoming water.

    Now open the drain valve again.

    The water in the tank will now be forced out of the drain under high pressure (maintained by the air bubble), doing a much more thorough job of flushing sediments out. Once the sediment is gone, or the pressure inside your tank drops, you can close the drain valve and open some other hot water spigot in the house to let the air bubble out and allow the tank to fill. If you, instead, open the pressure relief valve to let the air out, you'll wander away to do some other chore and return to find water overflowing through the pressure relief valve.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Where do you live that they allow a water heater to be installed like that?


    10 years ago on Introduction

    You're spot on about draining your water heater. Very good Ible. Many years ago I had to replace my water heater. Where I bought the heater the technician told me besides draining the heater, replace the anode rod in the heater every 2 years, and in most cases you'll better than double the life of your heater. He told me he has the same water heater in his house for 23 years. I've been changing mine every 2 years. Its amazing how little of the rod is left after 2 years. My heater is 14 years old.

    1 reply

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    i keep telling my parents to replace ours... hasn't happened at all. its 14 years old also.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Very good job! I couldn't have said it better myself. I even put a bump on your stars, it's good to see stars .