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The Difference Between Draining & Flushing Your Water Heater

When it comes to taking care of your water heater, one of the most important things you can do is regularly flush the tank to remove the buildup of dirt and sediment that accumulates in the bottom of the tank. This is fairly normal—most public water supplies have concentrations of minerals like calcium and magnesium in them in addition to trace amounts of dirt. These things tend to sink to the bottom of water heater tanks, where they build up into a substantial layer over time.

This layer of sediment acts as an insulator for gas water heaters, preventing them from heating the water as efficiently as they could. They also add extra stress to tanks, and could contribute to a heater wearing out faster and needing replacement sooner than normal. When you flush your water heater, you remove this layer of sediment, which keeps your water heater running smoothly. However, many homeowners don’t actually know the difference between flushing their water heater and simply draining it out. This difference is important, as simply draining your heater doesn’t remove the sediment buildup that can cause these annoying problems.

The Status of the Water Supply

The difference between draining and flushing your water heater lies in the status of your water supply. If you shut your water supply off, you’re simply draining your water heater. If you leave the water supply on, then you’re flushing it out. Draining a water heater tank simply has the goal of emptying the tank. However, flushing replaces all of the water in the tank with new water, and it’s this constant flow of water which washes away the sediment buildup in your tank.

It’s important to both flush and drain your water heater periodically in order to gauge the health of your tank and the condition of your water as it’s being put through your home. You should flush your water heater at least once a year in order to remove buildup that has accumulated over time. To flush your heater, shut off your heat (whether it’s gas or electric), connect a hose to your tank’s drain valve, and open it up. Let tank drain for a few minutes, as the tank drains, take regular samples by emptying some of the water from the hose into a bucket. If you see specks of sediment in the water, allow it to continue flushing. When these regular samples start coming out clean, then you can shut off your drain valve and allow your tank to re-fill. Turn your heat back on and let the tank get up to temperature.

You should drain your tank once a year as well. Shut off the water supply and hold a large bucket up to your water heater’s drain valve. Then empty it bucket by bucket. This will take some time. However, pay particularly close attention to the condition of the water in the last few buckets. If the water appears to have an odd smell or a rust color, then you should start saving for a new water heater, as it may not be long before you find yourself dealing with an obnoxious leak.

Finally, whether you’re draining your tank or flushing it out, you should also take the opportunity to test your shut-off valve. Shut-off valves are designed to shut off your water heater in the event of an emergency, but they can fail over time, especially if they’re not used or moved for several years. When your tank is empty, open your temperature and pressure relief valve, usually located at the top of your tank. Open and close it several times to make sure it’s moving smoothly.

If you’ve got a problem with your water heater, call the experts at Lange Plumbing at (702) 500-0936 today, and let us take care of it so you can go back to living comfortably with reliable hot water as soon as possible.

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