How to Maintain and Flush Your Water Heater

Many homeowners unfortunately assume that their water heater is maintenance free. The thought of flushing their water heater every year has never occurred to most homeowners. However, flushing your water heater regularly will reduce sediment and other contaminants, maintain its efficiency, and increase its life expectancy.You only need to drain your water heater once to see how important it is. The water at the very least will be very cloudy with minimal sediment, or it could be dark brown with inches of sediment. The water from the water heater below was relatively clean compared to a 5 or even fifteen year-old water heater that has never been drained.You should always refer to the owner’s manual but here is how it is usually done.

 

1.Safety is the most important thing.

  • Ensure the temperature dial is all the way down and close the gas valve or turn off the breaker to the water heater. Failure to remove the energy source before draining the water heater may result in damage. If you are impatient like me and you do not want to wait until the water cools, then make sure you have a durable hose that will not melt from the high temperature. If you are going to drain the water into a bucket make sure it is durable as well.
  • Make sure all children and pets are clear of the area before draining the scalding water.
  • Take the time to find your main water shut-off valve in case you run into a situation where all the water needs to be turned off. It is usually in the basement or crawlspace.

2.Turn off the cold water supply valve

3.Install a hose on the hose bib on the bottom of the water heater

"Install a hose on the hose bib on the bottom of the water heater"

“Install a hose on the hose bib on the bottom of the water heater”

4.Direct your house outside, into the a basement drain, or into a bucket if you plan to use the water for other purposes

5.Open the drain valve and turn on the hot water from the nearest sink

6.After the all the water is drained out, turn the cold water supply back on and flush the water heater until the water is clean and free of sediment

You should consider yourself lucky if your water starts out this clean

You should consider yourself lucky if your water starts out this clean

"flush the water heater until the water is clean and free of sediment"

“flush the water heater until the water is clean and free of sediment”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7.Close the drain valve

8.Remove the water hose

9.Give the water heater time to fill back up and then turn on the electric or gas to the water heater and fire if necessary

10.Set the temperature to the desired setting.

 

While your water heater is flushing, it is a great time to inspect it. Start from the top and work your way down.Check the flue (if applicable) and make sure it is venting upwards. It should never slope down at any point.Check to see if any soot or debris is depositing at the bottom of the flue. Check all pipes for signs of leaking and rust.As you work your way down check for dings, rust, and flame marks. Look inside to ensure the burner looks clean and is clean of any soot or carbon build up.Ensure no flammable or combustible items are near.

The TPR valve is safety device that will discharge water if the appliance becomes over heated or over pressurized for any reason.It is a good idea to check this device before you drain the water heater or after you fill it back up.It will be located on the very top of the water heater or someone near the top.It will have a lever. After ensuring that the discharged water will not damaged anything, operate the lever.You only need to ensure it is working.If it does not appear to be working, this could be a dangerous situation and a licensed professional should be called to fix the problem. If temperature sensors and safety devices such as TPRs malfunction, water in the system may become superheated, (exceed the boiling point). Once the tank ruptures and water is exposed to the atmosphere, it will expand into steam almost instantly and occupy approximately 1,600 times its original volume. This process can propel a heating tank like a rocket through multiple floors, causing personal injury and extensive property damage.

 

The installation of the TPR valve discharge pipe is very specific and very important. It should be as follows:

 

1.be constructed of an approved material, such as CPVC, copper, polyethylene, galvanized steel, polypropylene, or stainless steel. PVC and other non-approved plastics should not be used since they can easily melt.

2.not be smaller than the diameter of the outlet of the valve it serves (usually no smaller than 3/4″).

3.not reduce in size from the valve to the air gap (point of discharge).

4.be as short and as straight as possible to avoid undue stress on the valve.

5.be installed to drain by flow of gravity.

6.not be trapped, since standing water may become contaminated and backflow into the potable water.

7.discharge to a floor drain, to an indirect waste receptor, or to the outdoors.

8.not be directly connected to the drainage system to prevent backflow of potentially contaminating the potable water.

9.discharge through a visible air gap in the same room as the water-heating appliance.

10.be first piped to an indirect waste receptor such as a bucket through an air gap located in a heated area when discharging to the outdoors in areas subject to freezing, since freezing water could block the pipe.

11.not terminate more than 6 inches (152 mm) above the floor or waste receptor.

12.discharge in a manner that could not cause scalding.

13.discharge in a manner that could not cause structural or property damage.

14.discharge to a termination point that is readily observable by occupants, because discharge indicates that something is wrong, and to prevent unobserved termination capping.

15.be piped independently of other equipment drains, water heater pans, or relief valve discharge piping to the point of discharge.

16.not have valves anywhere.

17.not have tee fittings.

18.not have a threaded connection at the end of the pipe to avoid capping.

 

Any violation of these requirements represents a safety hazard.The picture to the right shows a discharge pipe improperly installed to discharge outside above that oil tank.If it was discharging due to over pressurization, it would spray scalding hot water and anyone outside at the time could be seriously hurt.

It is recommended that all homeowners get a yearly maintenance inspection to inspect for issues like this and many others.

If you have questions about anything in this article please do not hesitate to call us.

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