Tank water heaters are a dependable source of hot water for your home, but over time, sediment and minerals can accumulate in the storage tank. This buildup can reduce the efficiency of your water heater and, in severe cases, lead to drainage issues or even premature failure. Fortunately, draining your water heater to remove sediment is a straightforward process that you can do yourself or with the help of a local San Antonio plumbing company such as Shafer Services Plus.

Preparing to Drain Your Water Heater

Before you begin there are a few tools for this task:

  • Thick Rubber Hose: This will help you drain the water without making a mess. 
  • Bucket: In case you need to catch any water spills.
  • Screwdriver: This can be useful for loosening any tight screws or valves.

DISCLAIMER: If you have a plastic drain hatch and your water heater is 7 years or older, you may not be able to shut off or fully close the hatch once the draining is done. This is due to how heat can degrade the quality of plastic and how our plumbers have experienced hatches snapping or cracking after service is complete. In our plumber’s experience, it’s recommended to have a professional come out and replace the plastic part with a full port metal drain hatch.

Step 1: Turn Off the Water Heater

After you have gathered all the tools, turn off the water heater. For natural gas models, this can be done via the thermostat. For electric models, you’ll need to use the breaker switch. Gas heaters can stay on the pilot setting, but electric ones must be completely off to prevent the heating elements from overheating and potentially exploding inside the unit. Refer to your water heater’s manual for specific instructions.

Step 2: Attach the Hose to the Drain Valve

Locate the drain valve at the bottom of your water heater and securely attach the rubber hose. Ensure the connection is tight to avoid any spills of hot water. Run the other end of the hose to a safe location outside your home.

Step 3: Open the Drain Valve

Carefully open the drain valve to let the water start flowing out of the tank. The initial water may still be hot, so proceed with caution. As the water drains, it will carry out sediment and mineral buildup. Allow it to drain until the water runs clear and free of sediment. Sediment can look as small as sand or as large as chunks of oats. If you encounter any blockages, it might be necessary to contact a professional plumber.

Step 4: Close the Valve and Refill the Tank

Once the water is flowing clear and the tank is clear of sediment, close the drain valve, remove the hose, and wait for the tank to fill back up. Ensure the tank is fully refilled before turning the water heater back on to avoid damage. For gas models, reopen the gas valve, and for electric models, flip the breaker switch back on. Consult your water heater’s manual for any specific instructions.

Maintain Your Water Heater for Optimal Performance

Regular maintenance, including draining your tank at least once every year, can help keep your water heater running efficiently. In San Antonio, our water is known for being hard and containing minerals because our water supply comes from the mineral-rich Edward Aquifer.

If you live in areas with particularly high hard water levels, you should consider flushing your water heater about every 6 months. If you notice persistent issues or reduced heating performance, it might be time to consider replacing your water heater. At Shafer Services, we have reliable plumbers who can assist with water heater flush and replacement services to ensure your home always has a steady supply of hot water. Contact us today to schedule service.

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