Drain the sediment and residue from an electric tank water heater.

Hot water systems need to be routinely drained to avoid the build-up of sediment, debris, minerals and other foreign substances that could slow down or block the process.

Without this routine maintenance, you run the risk of the heating process getting interrupted (leading to sudden bursts of cold water), or the flow of water stopping entirely.

To prevent this, you will need to periodically drain your hot water system at least once a year.  Some trade experts suggest it should be once every six months, which isn’t bad advice by any means.  Your safest bet would be to check the manual for the manufacturer’s recommendation.

Generally speaking (not matter which type of hot water system you use): the more use the system gets, the more diligent you will need to be.  If you have a household with more than 5-6 people, it would be wise to check twice a year.   (Of course, this is an incredibly easy thing to forget, overlook or simply make excuses to avoid.  Be sure to mark the maintenance dates down in your calendar far in advance.)

Maintaining an Electric Hot Water Heater

Please note: The below DIY tips are a general guideline only, and by no means comprehensive. If in doubt, please consult a professional – and always check your manual for the specific safety disclaimers we cannot reliably cover here.

What you will need:

  • A garden hose.
  • A nearby drain, sink or appropriate outdoor area to drain the water.

Step-by-step:

  1. Turn off the power.
    If you can’t find a clear switch, you will need to shut it off from the breaker box.
  2. Turn off the cold water valve.
    You should find this straight above the tank.  (Failing this, you will need to shut off the water supply elsewhere.)  This will prevent it from filling up while you’re trying to drain it.
  3. Vent the hot water.
    Turn the hot water in your bathtub, kitchen sink, or any other safe area you can let it flow without risk of anybody inadvertently touching it.
  4. Drain the tank.
    Attach the hose to the drain valve, make sure the other end is placed somewhere where hot water can safely drain away, and carefully open up the valve.  Keep going until the water has drained.  Leave the hose in place – you will still need it for the next step.
  5. Flush out the water.
    There may still be residue remaining at the bottom of the tank.  To flush out this remaining water, you will need to drain it with small bursts of additional cold water.  First, close the drain valve and turn off the bathtub tap.  Then turn the water valve back on.  (Leave the heater power off – you only need to work with cold water here.)  The tank will start to fill up.  After a few minutes, turn off the cold water valve again, open the drain valve and let this new round of water out.Look at the water as it drains from the hose.  Does it seem pure, or is it off-colour / murky?   If it’s the latter, repeat this  final step over and over until the sediment has gone.

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