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Flushing Your Water Heater For Better Performance

by Wade Black

Nothing beats waking up to a hot, steamy shower. Yet if your water heater isn't performing up to snuff, you may find that your morning showers have become a little tepid. Luckily, lackluster water heating can often be addressed by flushing the tank. Read on to learn just how to perform this important piece of maintenance.

The Importance of Flushing

The heat generated by your water tank causes minerals such as calcium and magnesium to form deposits. Known as scale, such deposits tend to build up over time into a thick layer at the bottom of your tank. This greatly hampers your heater's efficiency by absorbing energy that should rightfully be working to heat the water.

Flushing your tank is the best way to rid yourself of such deposits. As a result, you should notice an immediate improvement not only in the quality and amount of hot water, but also in the cost of your heating bill.

How to Prepare

Flushing your water heater doesn't require too much where supplies are concerned. In fact, if there happens to be a floor drain near the water heater in your basement, it's possible that all you'll need is a single garden hose. If not, plan on having a couple of five-gallon buckets on hand to help transport you'll be emptying from the tank.

Before you do anything else, it's vital that you start by cutting off the power to your water heater. For electric units, you can do this by flipping the appropriate switch on your circuit breaker. Gas water heaters can be shut down by rotating the thermostat to the "pilot" or "off" position. Next, protect yourself against scalding by allowing the water in the tank several hours to cool down.

Performing the Flush

To keep additional water from flowing into the heater as you drain, be sure to twist the cold water supply valve all the way closed. Now go upstairs and turn on a few hot water faucets. This will help to speed the draining process, by preventing a vacuum from forming.

Now screw your garden hose onto the drain valve located near the base of the heater. The other end of the hose should lead to the floor drain (if you have one) or to one of your five-gallon buckets. Now open the drain valve and allow the water from the tank to drain out. If you're using the bucket method, you'll need to pause periodically in order to go empty them in an appropriate place.

Once the tank is empty, turn the water supply valve back on. This will help rinse out any sediment lingering in the tank. Once the water draining out is perfectly clear, you can close the drain valve and remove the hose. After restoring power to the heater, you should be good to go--with a noticeable improvement in the performance of your heater! Keep in mind that if you don't feel comfortable draining your own water heater tank, you can always contact a professional such as Marv's Plumbing