Instructions on How to Drain a Water Heater Fast and Improve Performance

Are you tired of the frustration of dealing with a slow or unreliable water heater?”

If so, it may be time to learn how to drain a water heater. Draining your water tank can help remove sediment buildup and improve its overall performance, resulting in faster heating times and lower energy bills.

But where do you start?

In this article, we’ll provide you with a step-by-step guide on how to drain a water heater quickly and efficiently. We’ll also share some expert tips, tricks, and troubleshooting advice to help you tackle any problems that may arise along the way.

Tools to use to drain a water heater
(photo: pixabay)

Don’t let a sluggish water heater slow you down. Read on to discover how you can revitalize your home’s hot water system and enjoy the benefits of a smoothly running water heater.

Please note that while this article focuses on gas water tank heaters, we also have a separate article that covers maintaining electric water heaters and provides useful draining tips specific to that type of heater.

Benefits of Draining a Water Heater

Regularly draining a water heater has numerous benefits for homeowners.

The main reason to drain and flush the system is to prevent or remove sediment build-up and dirt that can collect at the bottom of the tank. This buildup can reduce performance and efficiency, increase operating costs, and even cause the tank to leak over time.

Sediment and dirt buildup is a common occurrence in water tanks due to factors like hard water, mineral content, and rust. However, regular maintenance, which includes draining the tank, can help prevent this accumulation and ensure that the water heater operates efficiently.

In addition, draining a water heater can also be beneficial when the unit is inactive for an extended period, such as during a long vacation or when subjected to freezing temperatures. In these cases, the heater and piping should be thoroughly drained and the drain valve left open.

For on-demand units, it’s important to follow specific instructions on how to winterize a tankless water heater.

Furthermore, regular draining can help reduce the risk of tank leakage, which can cause water damages to the surrounding area, especially if the heater is installed in the attic or above living space. Leaking is often caused by loose connections, corrosive action in the tank, or broken elements.

Finally, homeowners can expect cleaner water, lower utility bills, and a longer lifespan for their water heater after the draining process. While there may be some spillage during the disconnection of the hose, the benefits of regular maintenance make it a worthwhile task for any homeowner looking to keep their water heater in top shape.

Avoid Water Damages by Installing a Drain Pan

When installing a water heater, it’s important to also install a drain or catch pan underneath it to collect any occasional drips that may occur. These drips can come from the condensation of the heater’s tank, TPR valve, or pipe joints at the top of the unit.

To ensure proper drainage and prevent overflow and leakage, it’s recommended to use a metal drain pan with an outside diameter that’s 2 inches larger than the tank diameter. This pan should be piped to an adequate drain. If the water heater is installed in the attic, a drain pan must be provided.

For added safety measures, a small device can be installed under the water heater to sound an alarm in case of a leak.

How Can I Drain a Water Heater Fast?

The most effective and safe way to drain a water heater is by using a utility pump. Before purchasing a pump, it’s important to check its specifications, including the gallons per hour of water it can transfer, the power of the motor, and the maximum water temperature it can handle.

It’s recommended to invest in a portable electrical pump with a minimum of 1/2 HP, as well as a 12 V battery-operated pump for emergency situations when electricity is unavailable.

It’s worth noting that sediment buildup can obstruct the normal water flow, so consider replacing an existing drain valve with a ball valve.

If the water heater is installed in the basement and there’s no floor drain, use the electric pump to move the water outside. Simply attach one end of the hose to the utility pump and the other end to an area away from the house. If the water isn’t too hot, it’s possible to direct the hose into the sump pit or a sewer system. By following these tips, homeowners can efficiently and safely drain their water heater.

What to Do If Water Is Still Leaking

It’s important to keep in mind that water leaks from a water heater typically develop slowly over time, and it’s uncommon for a pipe or connection to burst. If you notice a puddle of water near or under your unit, it’s important to immediately turn off the water, gas, and electricity at the main valve/switch to prevent further damage. You should then either call a professional plumber or fix the issue yourself.

Step-by-Step Guide on How to Drain a Water Heater Fast

  • Turn off the gas supply by using the gas control valve or manual shut-off valve located near the water heater.
  • Close the cold water inlet valve to prevent any new water from entering the tank.
  • Open the hot water tap nearest to the water heater to vent the heating system.
  • Attach a garden hose to the drain valve at the bottom of the water heater. Ensure that the other end of the hose is draining to an appropriate location to avoid any damage or injury. If using a bucket, ensure that it can hold the volume of water being drained.
  • Slowly open the drain valve on the water heater, and allow all the water to drain from the tank. Take caution as the water may be hot, and ensure that the hose is suitable for the temperature.
  • Once the tank is fully drained, flush the tank as needed to remove any sediment buildup.
  • Close the drain valve and follow the manufacturer’s instructions to refill the tank.

You can refer to the instructional video below for further guidance.

Should I Drain a Water Heater Often?

The recommendation is to drain and flush the tank every six months, or at least once a year, as part of regular, recommended maintenance. If it is the first time draining the tank and there is a lot of sediment buildup, the drain valve may not work or become clogged, making it difficult to close completely and resulting in some leakage afterward.

Since most water heaters come with low-quality plastic drain valves that are difficult to clean or may break, you can use a hacksaw blade, hammer, and screwdriver to saw and chip out the broken pieces and replace it with a ball valve for easy use and maintenance in the future.

If nothing comes out when draining, then the tank is likely in excellent condition.

Tips When Draining a Water Heater

One way to prevent lime and sediment buildup is by installing a water softener or using a de-limer solution. However, regularly draining and flushing the tank is a cheaper and simpler solution.

To drain the tank, open the pressure release valve to allow air into the tank and enable water to drain out smoothly. Alternatively, you can open a faucet. To avoid the risk of burns from scalding temperatures, open a hot water tap to allow enough cold water to enter the tank and lower the temperature.

Do not be surprised to see dirty or brown water due to the mineral and sediment buildup or corrosion. Ensure that the floor drain is easily accessible and not clogged for trouble-free operation and service.

Flush out any remaining sediments by turning on the water to the tank. When the drained water is clear, the process is complete. Use a bucket for this purpose.

When draining the tank, ensure that the discharge line pitches downward from the valve to allow complete gravity drainage. Keep the drain valve closed when filling up the heater.


How Long Does It Take to Drain a Water Heater?

The time it takes to drain a water heater depends on the tank and hose size, pressure, and complexity of the procedure. It can range from a few minutes to over an hour.

In general, it can take anywhere from 20-60 minutes to fully drain a standard 40-50 gallon water heater. However, if there is a lot of sediment buildup or clogging, it may take longer. It’s important to be patient and let the tank fully drain to avoid any potential damage or issues.

Can I Use Any Type of Hose to Drain My Water Heater?

No, it is recommended to use a garden hose that is specifically designed for hot water. Using a regular hose can result in melting or bursting due to the high temperature.

Can I Drain Water Heater Through Faucet?

Draining a water heater through a faucet is not recommended because it can cause sediment and debris to clog the faucet, which can lead to further problems. It is also not an effective method of draining a water heater since the flow rate from a faucet is typically not strong enough to remove all the water and sediment from the tank. It is best to use the drain valve located at the bottom of the tank, and connect a hose to it to direct the water and sediment to an appropriate drainage location.

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