How to Drain Water Heater Sediment in 7 Simple Steps

When was the last time you drained your natural gas water heater – last month? Last year? Never?

Believe it or not, homeowners should drain sediment from their natural gas water heaters once each year. Forgetting this simple task could result in sediment build-up, which reduces the heating efficiency of your water heater and could increase your natural gas bill.

Luckily, draining sediment is one of those simple energy saving ideas that you can easily do on your own! All you need is a garden hose and these seven simple steps:

Easy, right? Below is the step-by-step walk-through, along with a few more helpful tips.

1. Shut Off Your Water – Your water is controlled by your inlet control valve. Depending on your water heater model, you will either turn your inlet control valve a quarter-turn to the right, forming a T-shape, or a full-turn clockwise, like a faucet. Make a note of your water heater’s current temperature and turn the thermostat to the lowest or “Pilot” setting. Allow the water heater to cool down for 20 to 30 minutes.

2. Attach the Hose to Your Drain Valve – The valve, which looks like the water spigot outside your house, is located on the bottom of your water heater. Once your hose is screwed on tightly to the valve, run the other end of it to a drain in your basement or to an area outside your home.

3. Open the Drain Valve – Use a flathead screwdriver to open the drain valve and release the pressure inside your water heater.

4. Pull Up on the Pressure Release Valve – You’ll hear a gurgling sound once you move this lever upward. Don’t worry: this means that air is beginning to flow into your water heater, allowing the water to drain out.

5. Let the Water Drain – The water with sediment will begin to run out of your hose and into your yard or drain. This process will likely only take 20 to 30 seconds – it is not recommended to drain all the water from your water heater tank.

A quick family safety tip: Keep pets and children away from the hose and the area where the water is being drained. The water will still be very hot.

6. Close the Drain Valve and Pressure Release Valve: Once the water runs clear, close both valves. At this point, you may want to open up two hot water faucets in your kitchen or bathroom. This will help release any built-up air that has become trapped in the system. Then, return to your natural gas water heater tank and unscrew the hose from your drain valve.

7. Turn Your Water Back On – Rotate the inlet control valve back to its original position by turning it a quarter to the left or a full-turn counter-clockwise. This will turn your water back on – but don’t be surprised if your pipes sputter at first. This is just air in the pipes being released.

Once the water is back on and your water is flowing regularly, close the two bathroom or kitchen faucets that you opened during Step 6. As a final step, adjust your water heater’s temperature back to its original setting from Step 1. Allow 20 to 30 minutes for the water to warm.

How’s that for a clean slate? Now, enjoy your more energy efficient water heater – and your gas bill savings!  

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