Cellar Dweller! How to Clean Your Water Heater!

how to clean your water heater

Yes, we’re still in the basement–but for the best reason yet this time. In today’s economy, the more we can do ourselves without having to pay someone else, the better; and while it may not be exactly simple, cleaning your water heater is relatively easy. The unit itself is relatively simple so before you call in somebody and spend $75 or more for a service call, consider doing it yourself. Here are the steps…   [photo via flickr]

Step One: Power and Temperature

Make sure that before you do ANYTHING you cut the power on your breaker panel or fuse box. If your heater has a thermostat (gas-powered units will have one), be sure to turn it to its lowest setting. On gas heaters, that would be “pilot.” If you are going to save the water already in the tank, let it cool overnight. Never completely cut off the gas on a gas heater. The pilot light must stay lit.

Step Two: Prepare the Tank for Draining

Turn off the cold water supply to the tank. At the bottom of the tank, you will find the drain valve. If you don’t see it, look for a protrusion at the bottom. That is likely the valve cover. Attach a garden hose to the valve and make sure the other end of the hose is placed somewhere safe to drain the water (driveway, sump hole, etc.).

If you are reusing the water, you will need to have some kind of receptacle ready. A large bucket works well. Please do not use this water for drinking or washing your car as it is likely loaded with abrasive sediments. Finally, open the closest faucet or the pressure valve on the unit.

Step Three: Drain the Tank

When ready, turn the valve open to release the water. Do not let the water flow full-blast, as this will stir up sediment. Those deposits will then stay behind instead of flowing out as intended. Try to observe the state of the water flowing out of the tank. The idea here is to drain enough to remove the sediments, not to totally drain the tank. Once the water is flowing clear and there is no sign of deposits, close the valve. The hard part is done.

If the tank empties and the water is still dirty, you will need to turn on the water supply and let the tank partially fill. Then, keep draining the tank until the water runs clear. Once it does, cut the water supply again.

Step Four: Restart the Tank

Close the drain valve and remove the hose. Replace the valve cap. Close the pressure valve or faucet. Open the hot water faucet in the bathtub. Once the water is flowing regularly and with good pressure, turn on the power at the circuit box and adjust the thermostat on the heater once again.

Turn off the water in the bathtub. Listen to the water heater to make sure it is working. After about 20 minutes, run the water in the tub to be sure the water is heating. You should now have the cleanest water heater on the block–unless, of course, your neighbor is reading ModernDayMom, too.