How to Drain a Hot Water Heater

A hot water heater is an essential appliance in any home, providing us with the comfort of warm water for bathing, cooking, and cleaning. However, over time, sediment buildup can occur inside the tank, leading to reduced efficiency and potential damage to the unit. Regular maintenance, such as draining the hot water heater, is crucial to ensure its longevity and optimal performance. In this step-by-step guide, brought to you by South West Plumbing, we will walk you through the process of draining your hot water heater, helping you maintain a consistent supply of hot water while extending its lifespan.

Step 1: Safety First

Before you start any maintenance procedure, always prioritize safety. Turn off the power supply to the hot water heater. If you have an electric water heater, locate the circuit breaker dedicated to it and switch it off. For gas water heaters, locate the gas valve and turn it to the “off” position. Allow the unit to cool down for a few hours before proceeding to the next step.

Step 2: Gather the Necessary Tools

For this task, you will need a few basic tools. Ensure you have a garden hose long enough to reach a safe drainage area, a bucket, adjustable pliers, and gloves. You may also want to keep some old towels handy to catch any spills or drips.

Step 3: Locate the Drain Valve

The drain valve is typically located near the bottom of the hot water heater. It is a spigot-like valve with a hose attachment fitting. Once you’ve identified the drain valve, attach one end of the garden hose to it and place the other end in a suitable drainage location, like a nearby floor drain or outside.

Step 4: Open the Pressure Relief Valve

Locate the pressure relief valve, which is usually situated on the side of the water heater near the top. Lift the lever on the valve to release any pressure that may have built up inside the tank. This step will help water flow more smoothly during the draining process.

Step 5: Begin Draining the Water Heater

With the pressure released, it’s time to open the drain valve. Slowly turn the valve counterclockwise using the pliers if needed, and allow the water to flow through the hose and out to the drainage area. Be patient, as this process may take some time, depending on the size of your water heater.

Step 6: Inspect for Sediment

As the water drains out, keep an eye on its color and clarity. If you notice a significant amount of sediment coming out, it’s a clear sign that your hot water heater required this maintenance. Sediment buildup can lead to reduced efficiency and even damage the heating element.

Step 7: Rinse and Repeat

Once the water has completely drained, close the drain valve and remove the hose. Turn the water supply back on, and let the tank fill for a few minutes. Repeat the draining process one or two more times until the water runs clear, indicating that most of the sediment has been flushed out.

Step 8: Restore Power and Monitor

After completing the draining process and ensuring the water runs clear, you can now turn the power back on for electric water heaters or relight the pilot light for gas heaters. Monitor the unit for any leaks or irregularities to ensure it’s functioning correctly.


Regular maintenance is vital to keep your hot water heater running efficiently, and draining it periodically is a crucial part of this process. As we’ve seen in this step-by-step guide, provided by South West Plumbing, it’s a relatively simple task that can significantly extend the lifespan of your hot water heater. By following these steps, you can ensure a consistent supply of hot water and minimize the risk of unexpected breakdowns, saving you time, money, and inconvenience in the long run.