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July 22, 2019

Why and How to Flush Your Water Heater

Dark colored sink pouring out hot water.

Water heaters are one of those appliances we rely on to work consistently, but also rarely think about. At least until you have to get ready for work with a cold shower or you can’t do the dishes. Maintaining a classic tank-style water heater isn’t hard, but it does take a little forethought.

Most regular water heaters use a large, insulated holding tank. By pumping water into the tank, heating it and storing it, those water heaters can make sure there’s plenty of hot water on hand. However, there’s sediment and minerals in our water and our water lines, and because that water often sits still before we use it, those minerals and sediment often find their way to the bottom of the tank, causing flow and heating issues. Over time those issues can mean having to replace your water heater ahead of schedule.

Keeping your water heater tank clean means regularly flushing it. Before you get started, know that this process will last overnight and you’ll need a regular garden hose.

  1. Turn off the water supply at the top of the water heater to make sure no fresh water can enter the tank.
  2. If you have an electric water heater, turn it off completely, typically by flipping the breaker switch on the electrical panel. If you have a gas water heater, you can turn the thermostat to “pilot” rather than turning it off entirely.
  3. Wait overnight so the water inside the tank has time to cool.
  4. Once the water has cooled enough to interact with it safely, attach a garden hose to the drain valve near the bottom of the water heater.
  5. Turn on the hot water at a faucet and let any available water from the water heater drain.
  6. Once the faucet runs dry, there will be a small amount of water – and all the sediment and mineral build up – at the bottom of the almost-empty tank. With the hose connected, open the drain valve and drain whatever water is left.
  7. Turn the cold water supply on for a few seconds to stir up the build up at the bottom of the tank and let that water drain out through the hose.
  8. Close the drain valve, remove the hose, refill the tank with the cold water supply and turn the tank back on.

Remember that it will take a few hours for the water in the tank to reheat completely! And, if you have a backup or clog from the sediment during the draining process, you’ll want to contact a professional.

If you’d rather not worry about this kind of house maintenance, contact your local TruBlue Total House Care office and ask about our House Care Plus program.

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