If you're like most homeowners, you only think about your hot water heater when you run out of hot water or when it's time to replace this appliance. But while your water heater might keep chugging away for years even without maintenance, there is one thing you can do to keep it running a lot longer (and also more efficiently). Drain your hot water heater once a year to remove sediment from the bottom of the tank. Here's how.
1. Turn off the water and power.
There is a valve near the top of the tank that is open to allow water to flow into the tank. Close this valve by turning it until the handle is parallel to the pipe. Also, turn off the power to the tank. If your tank does not have a power switch (some don't), turn it off at the breaker. If you have a gas water tank, turn off the gas supply, too.
2. Connect the hose.
A regular, old garden hose is all you need! Connect it to the spigot at the bottom of the water heater. (There will only be one—it will look like the spigot you hook your hose to outside.) Make sure you screw the hose on really tight so you don't get water drops all over the floor. You may want to put a cookie sheet or other shallow pan under the spigot to catch stray drops.
3. Drain the tank.
Place the opposite end of the hose in a sink or over a drain. Open the spigot to let the water start flowing. Keep going until the hot water tank is empty. If you do not have either in the basement, you can drain the tank into a 5-gallon pail, and dump the pail repeatedly as it fills.
Close the spigot, disconnect the hose, and restore the water and power supply. You're finished!
Keep in mind that if you have hard water, your hot water heater will accumulate sediment faster than if you have soft water. (Hard water, by definition, contains more dissolved calcium and magnesium, which fall out of the water and and up inside your water tank.) If you have soft water, you may be able to get away with only draining the tank every 2 - 3 years. If the process seems too time-consuming, you can always hire a plumber to do it for you. Some HVAC contractors also offer this service as a part of their yearly maintenance protocols.
For more information, reach out to a local water heater service.