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The Importance of Flushing Your Water Heater

Written by Neil Harrop | May 24, 2024

Our plumbers recommend flushing your water heater every three to five years and a tankless water heater every other year. Though it might seem mundane, this simple process can significantly impact your water heating system’s efficiency, longevity, and safety.

The Role of a Water Heater in Your Home
Before discussing the importance of flushing, let’s understand what a water heater does. This appliance heats water for various household needs, such as bathing, cooking, and cleaning. Given its constant use, a water heater must operate efficiently to meet a household’s daily demands.

What Happens Inside Your Water Heater?
Over time, naturally present in water, minerals such as calcium and magnesium begin to settle at the bottom of the tank. This sediment buildup can lead to several issues, including:

  1. Reduced Efficiency: Sediment acts as an insulator, making it harder for the heating element to warm the water. This means your water heater has to work harder, using more energy and raising your utility bills.
  2. Decreased Capacity: As sediment accumulates, it takes up space in the tank, reducing the amount of hot water available.
  3. Corrosion and Damage: Sediment can lead to rust and corrosion inside the tank, shortening the lifespan of your water heater and potentially leading to leaks.
  4. Noise: The buildup can cause popping or rumbling noises as the sediment heats and moves around in the tank, which can be alarming and disruptive.

The Benefits of Flushing Your Water Heater

Improved Efficiency
Flushing your water heater removes sediment buildup, allowing the heating elements to operate more effectively. This improves the unit’s efficiency, ensuring that it heats water more quickly and with less energy. In turn, this can lead to noticeable savings on your energy bills.

Prolonged Lifespan
Regular maintenance, including flushing, can extend the lifespan of your water heater. By preventing corrosion and minimizing wear and tear, you reduce the likelihood of costly repairs or the need for an early replacement.

Enhanced Water Quality
Sediment buildup can affect the quality of your hot water, sometimes leading to discolored water or a metallic taste. Flushing the tank helps maintain clear, clean water, which is particularly important for cooking and bathing.

Reduced Noise
A thorough flush can often resolve these issues if your water heater has been making unusual noises. Removing the sediment eliminates the noise source, resulting in a quieter operation.

DIY vs. Professional Flushing
While some homeowners may feel comfortable flushing their water heater, others might prefer hiring a professional. Here’s a quick overview of both options:

DIY Flushing

  1. Turn Off the Heater: Ensure the water heater is turned off and allow it to cool off.
  2. Shut Off the Water Supply: Close the cold water supply valve to prevent more water from entering the tank.
  3. Attach a Hose: Connect a garden hose to the drain valve at the bottom of the tank.
  4. Drain the Tank: Open the drain valve and allow the water to flow out, flushing away sediment. Be cautious, as the water can be very hot.
  5. Refill and Restart: Close the drain valve, disconnect the hose, open the water supply valve, and turn the heater back on.

Professional Flushing
Hiring a professional ensures the job is done correctly and safely. Professionals can also inspect the water heater for potential issues, providing peace of mind and potentially preventing future problems.

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