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Water Heater Care: An Important Spring Chore

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With all the time we’re spending at home this spring, it’s more important than ever to keep home comfort systems working efficiently and reliably. That includes your water heater.

If you have a storage-type water heater (one with a tank), one important maintenance task to consider while you’re sheltering in place is to drain your tank of sediment. Sediment precipitates from minerals in your water supply; if enough gathers at the bottom of your tank or on your water heater’s heating element, your efficiency will suffer, and you eventually could have a water heater breakdown.

The good news is that sediment build-up is easy to manage by periodic flushing of your storage tank.

How to flush your water heater tank

You’ll need:

  • A flat blade screwdriver
  • A garden hose
  • A knee-high stocking
  • A rubber band or wire tie


  1. Turn off the power to the water heater at the circuit breaker; if you have a propane gas water heater, you will also need to turn off the gas supply.
  2. Fasten a length of garden hose to the drain valve at the bottom of the water heater. If you can’t locate the drain value, consult your water heater’s owner’s manual.
  3. Run the other end of the hose to the nearest floor drain, or outside your house.
  4. Close the shut-off valve at the water inlet line or main water supply.
  5. Open a hot water faucet somewhere in the house to relieve system pressure inside the tank.
  6. Slide a knee-high stocking over the drain end of the garden hose to capture sediment and scale as the water heater drains; use the rubber band or wire tie to hold it in place. If you capture a lot of sediment, you’ll need to flush your water heater more often.
  7. Using your screwdriver, open the drain valve (the other side of the Y connector where you attached the hose). Use caution: the water that will flow into your floor drain or outside your home will be hot enough to scald.
  8. Drain about three to five gallons of water, which should be enough to capture the needed sediment.
  9. When you’re done, close the drain valve with your screwdriver and remove the hose.
  10. Open a hot water faucet somewhere in the home, then open the shut-off valve at the water inlet line or main water supply. You’ll hear the water heater start to fill. When you have a steady stream of water at the faucet, turn it off.
  11. Turn the power back on at the circuit breaker. For propane gas water heaters, turn the gas supply back on.

Of course, your water heater needs more than an occasional flush –  you’ll also need professional water heater service about every two years. If your water heater needs service, contact us today – before your water heater fails when you need it most.

If you need a propane water heater repair or propane water heater replacement in northern Rhode Island or southeastern Massachusetts, W.H. Riley & Son is here to help – contact us today for water heater service.

Please note: at W.H. Riley & Son, your safety and comfort are always our priority. Please see our COVID-19 Service Update Page to learn more about how we are working to keep our crews and your home comfort systems working through this challenging time.