To promote proper maintenance and extend the life of your water heater, you should flush it regularly. When considering how often to flush your water heater, the manufacturer’s instructions will give you the most specific and accurate directions for your particular model. If you do not have the manufacturer’s instructions, then consider these general guidelines:
One or two people in the home- flush it every twelve months
Three to five people in the home- flush it every eight months
Six or more people in the home- flush it every six months
If your local water source has high concentrations of minerals or sediment, you may need to flush your water heater more often. A good guideline is to subtract two months off the typically suggested timelines.
Some water heaters will have specific methods for draining and flushing (again consult the manufacturer’s instructions). A few general steps to take when cleaning your water heater include:
Step 1: Shut off the water
On the top of the water heater, there should be a water pipe and a valve to shut-off the flow of water into the heater. Turn off this valve first before starting any additional work.
Step 2: Turn off the power source
To prevent any potential danger, you will want to shut off the power or gas supply to the water heater. If your water heater is electric, you can turn it off at the circuit breaker. If it is gas, turn off the gas at the supply line – this is typically done by turning a valve. Let the heater cool before the next step.
Step 3: Set up the drain valve
To facilitate the draining of water from the tank, and to keep it from going everywhere, attach one end of a hose to the drain valve and put the other end of the hose down a drain or outside.
Step 4: Turn on hot water
Turn on the hot water at your shower or several faucets. Preferably, use a faucet that is located close to the water heater. This will help to alleviate pressure from inside the tank prior to draining.
Step 5: Drain the tank
Turn the drain valve to drain the tank. Water should begin flowing from the tank and into the hose that you attached. It could take approximately half-an-hour for the tank to drain, depending on the size, condition, and concentration of minerals or sediment in the water.
Step 6: Refill the tank
Once the tank is empty, you could take this opportunity to perform other maintenance. Brush the inside of the tank to clear away any chunks of sediment. While the tank is empty, you could also replace the anode rod. Once you have cleaned out the tank, you can turn the water back on, run clean water through it, close the drain valve, and then let the tank fill. Once the tank is full replace the lid and turn the power or gas back on (if your unit is gas-powered, you will also need to relight the pilot light).
Flushing your tank can be a time-consuming process and one that requires some mechanical knowledge. Many homeowners elect to have professional plumbers perform such maintenance. Plumbing experts can also use this opportunity to inspect the condition of the tank and make sure it is in working order. Be sure to stay up to date with flushing your tank and maintaining your water heater for clean, reliable hot water all year round.