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What do you mean I need to flush my water heater?

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The often overlooked hot water heater, that big tank that’s shunned and hidden in a utility closet somewhere in your home, rarely gets any attention. Most of us don’t pay it any mind until we’re in the shower, complaining about the lack of hot water, or the five minutes it takes to heat up before we can even get in the shower. Then, all of a sudden, the water heater is a concern.  

Now that’s not fair is it? You didn’t even peek in on the ‘ol water heater once in the last year and now you want to scream obscenities at it when you don’t get the hot water you so desperately want? That’s not very nice of you. But, we understand the frustration. We’ve been there, and we can help!

Your water heater, like most everything mechanical in your home, needs routine maintenance to keep it operating at its best. One often neglected task is flushing your tank to get rid of the sediment that builds up inside. Allowing this sediment to build up hampers the heater’s ability to do its job efficiently, shortens the life of your water heater, and costs you more money and more headaches in the future.

So, when should you flush your water heater?

If you’re asking that question, chances are right now would be a good time to get it flushed out. Water heaters typically need to be flushed once a year to keep them performing at peak efficiency. For some, the need may be more often, depending on the hardness level of their water. Homes with higher levels of mineral deposits in their water may need to flush the heater on a more routine schedule. There are also some guidelines to follow depending on the amount of people in your home, which obviously increases your water heater’s workload. Here’s a general rule of thumb:

One or two people in a home: Inspect the water heater every six months and drain it every 12 months

Three to five people in a home: Inspect the water heater every four months and drain it every eight months

Six or more people in a home: Inspect the water heater every four months and drain it every six months

There are also some signs that you can keep an eye out for that can alert you to the need to get it flushed. If you’re noticing any of these, it’s worth the effort to do a flush or call in a professional.

Action Mechanical is offering a special on water heater flushes and maintenance checks for just $50 through January 31, 2020!

  • Increased Heating Time: Is it taking longer for your faucets and shower to push out hot water? Your problem may be mineral deposits and scale build up in your tank. When you have sediment build up, it settles into the bottom of the tank, making the heating element work harder because it’s also heating the sediment.
  • Noisy Heater: If there’s too much sediment, as mentioned above, the heater works overtime to heat your water. The water that’s beneath all that sediment can oftentimes boil and cause the sediment to rattle around inside the tank. So give a listen to your heater occasionally.
  • Decrease in Water Pressure: Hard water deposits can narrow or block the pipes leading away from your water heater and cause a decrease in water pressure.
  • Deposits in Your Water: If left un-checked for too long, your tank can build up so much sediment, that you’ll see it come out of the faucet, into the glass you drink from or the pot you use for cooking.

I’ve never flushed my tank, where do I start?

It’s recommended that your first step in the flushing process is to pick up the phone, call Action Mechanical, and let our professional plumbers come tackle the job, while you pour yourself a coffee and relax with a good book. But for the sake of educating you for all future flushes, we have a 9-step guide to tackle the task on your own.

  • Step 1: Turn off the cold water supply to your water heater. If you have an older home, this may require turning off the main water supply where it enters your house. If you have a water softener unit, there should also be a shut-off valve there as well.
  • Step 2: You want to avoid having your heater turn on once the water is drained, so turn off the water heater thermostat. If you have a natural gas heater, you’ll also need to close the gas supply valve.
  • Step 3: Connect a garden hose to the tanks drain valve, generally located at the bottom of the tank. The other end of the hose should either flow into a floor drain, or be led outside, away from your home’s foundation and any landscape.
  • Step 4: Open up all the hot water faucets in your home. This will speed up the draining process.
  • Step 5: Open the tanks drain valve and let the draining begin. If water does not begin to flow out of the hose, you may have a blockage from the sediment. In this case, you’ll need to open the temperature pressure release to let off pressure from the tank and drain any water that’s left in the hot water pipes downstream from the heater. Use a wet/dry vacuum to suck out some of the blockage until the water starts to flow.
  • Step 6: Once your tank has drained, turn the cold water supply back on and let it run for a few minutes to help rinse out any sediment left in the tank. Continue this until you’re sure there’s no more sediment coming out. If needed, let it drain into a glass and see if any sediment settles to the bottom. When you’ve gotten the last bit out, turn the water supply back off.
  • Step 7: Disconnect the hose, and use a wet/dry vacuum to suck out any sediment from the valve opening. This will ensure a proper seal, and prevent the valve from leaking. After closing the valve, turn the cold water supply back on.
  • Step 8: Go check the hot water faucets that you have open and make sure water begins to flow out. Don’t be alarmed if you see rust or sediment coming out at first, it may take a minute to run clear. Once it runs clear, you can shut them off.
  • Step 9: Reset your water heater thermostat to your preferred setting. If you have a gas heater, reopen the gas supply valve and relight the pilot (follow your manufacturer’s instructions). Once your tank has filled, you should have hot water back up and running within about twenty minutes, depending on heater size, efficiency, and whether it’s gas or electric.


Take advantage of our $50 water heater service special, now through the end of January 2020! Service includes thorough maintenance inspection and tank flushing!


So there you have it, folks! Water heater flushing 101 is a wrap. In the future, remember to check your water heater periodically to ensure it’s giving you the efficiency you need to keep hot water flowing through your home all year, at the most cost effective levels possible.

When in doubt, you can rely on the trusted professionals at Action Mechanical to fix or diagnose any of your plumbing problems, day or night. Our certified technicians are on call 24/7, and will work to get the job done right the first time, every time.

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