This DIY can help you:

  • Learn more about your hot water tank and why it's important to do regular maintenance on it
  • Learn how to flush your tank
  • Learn other tank maintenance tips

What you need to know:

A few simple maintenance chores done regularly on your tank can actually make it last longer and work better. For example, here are some of the problems that can develop without regular tank flushing.

  • A layer of sediment builds up at the bottom of a tank that hasn't been flushed in a long time. This layer interferes with heat from the heating element getting to the water in the tank, which means it will take longer for the heater to heat up.
  • The longer the water is heated, the more wear and tear on the tank, which shortens its lifespan.
  • Sediment can also become a breeding ground for bacteria that eats away at the tank and can cause leaks or other damage.
  • Sediment flakes can block the drain on the hot water tank, or make their way into the water lines in the rest of the house.

What you'll need:

  • A garden hose, long enough to reach a drain near the tank (floor drain, washer, sink, shower, etc.)
  • Insulated rubber gloves or other waterproof protection for your hands

Flushing a hot water tank (to be done at least twice a year)

  1. Turn off the gas supply to the tank following the instructions on the tank. If it's an electric tank, turn off the electricity supply. There are usually instructions for gas water tanks printed on the tank's gas valve; a switch will be mounted near an electric tank. If you're not sure how to do this step, don't go ahead with flushing the tank; call us and we'll be happy to show you how to do it, or we can do it for you. (Turning off the heater prevents it from running while you're flushing it.)
  2. Find the hose connection at the base of the heater, and attach the garden hose to it. The connection is usually at the bottom of the heater. Make sure the hose connection to the hot water tank is tight. You don't want any hot water or sediment leaking onto the floor.
  3. Run the other end of the hose to a nearby drain, such as a floor drain, a sink, a shower or bathtub.
  4. Find the drain valve for the tank. It's usually right next to the hose connection, or on it.
  5. Slowly turn on the drain valve, carefully checking for leaks. CAUTION: the water coming out of the tank will be hot! Wear gloves or take other precautions to prevent scalding or burns.
  6. Check the other end of the garden hose to make sure the water is draining properly. If it's been a long time since the tank was flushed, you'll see a lot of sediment coming out.
  7. Wait for the water emptying into the drain to become clear of sediment.
  8. When the water is clear, turn off the drain valve and disconnect the hose. CAUTION: the hose may be hot from the water, and some hot water may leak as you disconnect it. Be careful. You may want to hold the end of the hose up after disconnecting it from the tank, to allow the remaining water in the hose to drain.
  9. Turn the tank's supply of electricity or gas back on. If it's a gas water tank, you'll need to follow the instructions for relighting the pilot light and making sure it's burning.

Other maintenance tips

  • On gas hot water tanks, consider adding a screen to the tank's air intake in the summer to prevent insects from getting into the tank's blower motor and causing it to fail prematurely. Remove the screen in the fall so ice or snow don't accumulate on it and cause a blockage, which can also damage the blower.
  • Put a carbon monoxide tester near a gas hot water tank to make sure it's burning efficiently and safely.
  • Do a visual check of your tank regularly for leaks and rust.
  • If your tank has a plastic drain valve, consider having it replaced with a brass valve. Brass will last longer and be less prone to breaking.
  • Consider having your tank anode inspected. This tank component attracts corrosion to itself, preventing corrosion in the tank. After a while, the anode itself can become corroded, causing damage to the tank rather than preventing it. The anode should be inspected regularly and replaced if necessary. Contact us if you'd like us to check your tank's anode for you.

Need more help?

Rather not get yourself in hot water? We try to make our DIYs as easy to follow as possible, but if you need more help, we're just a phone call or email away. Keep in mind that tank maintenance, even when it's done by us, is less expensive than a new tank.

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