How to Drain an Electric Water Heater

Learn the Proper and Safe Way to Do the Job

Electric hot water heater

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When you're having problems with an electric water heater and trying to troubleshoot the issue or repair it, you may need to drain the tank. A partial draining can also be preventative maintenance to keep sediment from building up. This is typically recommended every month and a half for the first year and every six months thereafter.

No matter the reason why you need to drain your electric water heater, be sure to follow these steps to do the job properly.

Turn Off Power

Before you do anything else, you must first turn off the power to the water heater. This is done at the electrical panel by disabling the circuit breaker or fuse powering the water heater.

Turn Off Water

Next, turn off the water supply to the water heater. You should find a water shut-off valve at or near the cold water inlet pipe at the top of the tank. Turn the valve clockwise to shut it off.

If you cannot find a local shut-off valve, turn off the water supply to the house at the main valve.

Ready the Drain

The drain cock at the bottom of the water heater tank is a silver or brass colored valve with a threaded end. This is where water comes out of the water heater and you need somewhere for the water to go as you drain the tank.

You can either place a bucket under the drain valve or attach a garden hose to the threaded end of the valve. Run the garden hose to a floor drain if you use that option.

Open the Pressure Relief Valve

You will then need to locate the water heater's temperature and pressure (T&P) valve so you can relieve pressure from the tank. It is either on the side or the top of the water heater. Look for a valve that has a tube leading downward.

Flip the lever on the T&P valve into an up position to open it.

Drain the Water

With all safety precautions taken, it is time to drain water from the tank. Some drain valves have a handle. Others have a short handle-less stem with a slot for a flat blade screwdriver.

  • Turn the valve counter-clockwise to release a few gallons of water into the bucket or hose for a partial flush.
  • If you are doing a complete drain and are using a hose, let the tank drain until empty.
  • When using a bucket for a full flush, you should use rubber gloves to avoid getting scalded. Fill the bucket and open and close the valve as many times as needed to empty the tank. Make sure to only partially fill the bucket if you need to tip it to get it out from under the valve spout.

Close the Valve

Once the draining is complete, close the T&P valve by flipping the lever down and close the drain valve by turning it clockwise. Empty the bucket or remove the hose.

Turn on Water Supply and Power

With the tank drained, you can perform any maintenance required. When the repair is complete, or if this was just a maintenance flush, turn the power and water supply to the water heater back on.