How To Flush a Water Heater and Why You Should Do It!

how to flush water heater in basement with no hot water and strange sounds

Top Tips: How To Flush a Water Heater

Noticing lukewarm water or strange noises from your water heater? It’s time to learn how to flush a water heater. This guide provides clear, step-by-step instructions to enhance your water heater’s performance and extend its lifespan.

Key Takeaways

  • Flushing your water heater is essential for removing sediment buildup, improving efficiency, and extending the appliance’s lifespan.
  • Signs that your water heater needs flushing include discolored water, strange noises, inconsistent water temperatures, and funky tastes or odors.
  • Remember to follow safety precautions such as turning off the power source and letting the water cool down before starting the flushing process.


Have you ever wondered why your hot water isn’t as hot as it used to be, or why your energy bills are creeping up? The answer might be settled at the bottom of your water heater. Regular flushing of your water heater is akin to a spa day for your hardworking appliance. It’s a process that, while not glamorous, is essential for preventing sediment buildup and ensuring your water heater runs efficiently. Think of it as a detox for your water heater, one that reduces recovery time, prevents the inefficiencies of excess sediment acting like a cozy blanket, and extends the lifespan of your home’s unsung hero.

It’s time we shed light on this seldom covered topic, dispel the intimidation surrounding it, and embrace the empowerment of DIY home maintenance. Whether you are in an area with hard water that demands more frequent flushing or you simply want to prevent the potential disaster of water heater failure, this guide is your ally. So, let’s roll up our sleeves and get to the heart of why your water heater needs this tender loving care.

Importance of Flushing Your Water Heater

Flushing your water heater is important because it helps to remove built-up sediment and maintain its efficiency. Over time, sediment can build up in the tank, decreasing the water heater’s performance and potentially shortening its lifespan. Besides giving you the satisfaction of a job well done, flushing is your water heater’s best defense against a slew of potential problems. Sediment, the nemesis of your hot water heater, is a natural byproduct of hard water. This unwelcome guest settles at the bottom of the tank, causing inefficiencies and, in severe cases, catastrophic failures. A water heater choked by sediment works harder to heat your water, leading to higher bills and a shorter lifespan for the appliance.

Gas water heaters, in particular, are prone to hot spots that can lead to leaks and corrosion if not flushed regularly. Even your tankless water heater, although less needy, can benefit from a fine cleaning of boiler piping. Flushing your water heater is not just about maintaining efficiency; it’s about preserving the heart of your home’s hot water supply and saving yourself from future headaches and expenses.

Signs Your Water Heater Needs Flushing

You can tell your water heater needs a flush when you notice:

  • Discolored water
  • Strange noises coming from the tank
  • Inconsistencies in water temperature
  • Grumbling, popping, or banging sounds
  • Water with a funky taste or odor

These can indicate a buildup of mineral deposits and sediment that needs to be flushed out. Flushing your water heater will help improve its performance and prevent further issues.

Other symptoms include longer wait times for water to heat up and a reduced hot water capacity, suggesting that sediment is taking up valuable real estate in your water heater’s tank. These signals are your cue to take action and flush your water heater before these minor annoyances balloon into a full-blown water heater repair situation.

Safety Precautions

Before you dive into flushing your water heater, let’s talk about safety. It’s easy to feel intimidated if you’ve never taken on a task like this before, but with a few clear steps to follow, you can ensure a smooth and safe process. First and foremost, turn off the power source to the water heater—electric or gas— to prevent any nasty surprises like accidental gas leaks or shocks.

Use caution when handling the water heater; the contents can be scalding hot, so it’s important to work with cold water whenever possible. Keep an eye out for potential flooding, too. A leaky drain valve or a misdirected hose can quickly create a mini indoor pool in your house. With these precautions in mind, you’re ready to tackle the task at hand.

Step-by-Step Guide to Flushing a Water Heater

Ready to flush a water heater? Here’s your complete roadmap. Flushing your water heater involves draining the tank and then running cold water through to clear out any sediment that’s settled at the bottom. This procedure will rejuvenate your water heater, boosting its efficiency and preparing it for many more years of providing you with precious hot water. If you take these steps, your water heater will thank you with reliable service and energy efficiency.

The entire flushing process might seem daunting, but we’ve broken it down into manageable chunks. Follow these steps, and you’ll be a pro at flushing a water heater in no time. Let’s dive into the specifics.

Turn Off the Water Heater’s Power Source

Safety first! Make sure you turn off the water heater’s power source. For electric models, this means flipping the breaker at your electrical panel and turning off the switch on the unit itself. If you have a gas water heater, you’ll need to turn the thermostat to ‘Pilot’ or ‘Off’ to prevent the gas from flowing while you work.

This step is crucial; think of it as preparing the stage before the main act. Not only does it prevent accidents, but it also ensures that you’re not trying to flush your water heater with hot water, which could be dangerous. With the power safely off, you’re ready to proceed to the next step.

Shut Off the Cold Water Supply

With the power off, the next move is to stop the flow of cold water into the tank. Locate the cold water valve—usually identifiable by its blue handle—and turn it clockwise until it won’t budge. This effectively cuts off the water supply, ensuring no new water enters the tank as you begin the flushing process.

It’s like hitting pause on an exciting movie. You’re preventing any new players (in this case, water) from entering the scene while you deal with the existing cast (the water already in the tank). With the cold water supply securely off, it’s time to let things cool down a bit.

Cool Down the Water

The water inside your hot water heater tank is hot—potentially dangerously hot. To avoid getting burned, allow the water to cool down before you start the flush. Wait it out for a half hour to an hour, or to be extra cautious, wait several hours for a significant temperature reduction.

You can use this time to gather your tools or take a break. Once you’re confident the water has cooled (a quick test from the tap should tell you), you’re set to move on without the risk of scalding. Remember, patience is not just a virtue; it’s a safety measure.

Connect a Garden Hose to the Drain Valve

Now, find your garden hose. You’ll need to connect one end to the drain valve at the bottom of the water heater. Make sure the other end is directed to a suitable place where the water can safely drain away, like a floor drain or even outside.

This step is like setting up a miniature escape route for your water heater’s unwanted guests—the sediment. Secure the hose tightly to avoid leaks and ensure a smooth exodus of the murky water. With the hose in place, you’re ready to start the draining process.

Open a Hot Water Faucet

Before you open the drain valve, there’s another important step. Head to a tub or sink and open a hot water faucet. This will break any vacuum inside the water lines and allow the tank to drain more effectively.

It’s like opening a window to let out smoke; you’re allowing air to enter the system, which helps the water flow out smoothly. With a faucet running, it’s time to get to the heart of the job and release the water in the tank.

Open the Drain Valve

Grab your flathead screwdriver and open the drainage spigot. If it’s a handle type, twist it counter-clockwise; if it’s a knob, use the screwdriver to turn it. Watch the water as it drains out of the hose; what you’re looking for is clarity. If the water looks cloudy or if you see sediment, keep the water flowing until it runs clear.

This is the moment of truth, the purge of impurities that have been hampering your water heater’s performance. Like uncorking a bottle, you’re releasing the pressure and allowing the water to flow freely.

Flush the Tank with Cold Water

Once the water runs clear, you’ll want to flush the tank with cold water to wash away any lingering sediment. This is like washing a dirty dish; you’re ensuring that all the grime is gone before you put it back in the cupboard.

Keep the water running until you’re confident that the tank is clean. The last thing you want is to leave any sediment behind to start building up all over again. With the tank flushed, you’re nearing the end of the process.

Close the Drain Valve and Refill the Tank

It’s time to close the drain valve and declare victory against sediment. Make sure it’s tight to avoid any leaks. Then, turn on the cold water supply to refill the tank.

As the tank fills, keep an eye out for any leaks. This is your chance to catch any small issues before they become big problems. With the tank full and no leaks in sight, you’ve successfully flushed your water heater. Congratulations!

Final Steps After Flushing

You’re almost finished! Turn the cold water supply back on and allow the tank to fill completely. Run a nearby hot water tap to release any trapped air from the system.

Now, check for leaks one last time and then restore the power to your water heater. If you have a  gas water heater, don’t forget to relight the pilot light.

With the power back on, let the water heat up, and you’re back in business! Your water heater is now ready to provide you with hot water more efficiently than ever.

Maintenance Tips for Your Water Heater

Regular flushing is just one part of maintaining a reliable water heater. Remember to inspect your water heater every few months for signs of wear and tear, such as leaks or corrosion. Keep an eye on the anode rod, too, and replace it every three to five years to protect your tank from rust.

Additionally, here are some tips for maintaining your water heater:

  • Set the temperature to a safe and energy-efficient level, typically between 120°F and 140°F.
  • Insulate your water heater and pipes to help save on energy costs.
  • If you’re ever unsure about any maintenance tasks, don’t hesitate to call in the professionals—they’re there to help!

When to Call Benjamin Franklin Plumbing Kansas City

Sometimes, a job is best left to the pros. If you encounter any issues during the flushing process or if you’re not comfortable doing it yourself, call Benjamin Franklin Plumbing Kansas City. With their expertise in traditional and tankless water heaters, you’ll be in good hands.

Benjamin Franklin Plumbing Kansas City has been a trusted name since 2003, offering quality service and a guarantee that if a repair fails within a year, they’ll fix it at no cost. For friendly, professional service, give them a call and rest easy knowing your water heater will receive the best care.


And there you have it—the complete guide to flushing your water heater. From understanding the importance of this maintenance task to executing it with precision, you’re now equipped to keep your water heater running at peak performance. Regular flushing prevents sediment buildup, increases efficiency, and extends the lifespan of your heater. Remember the signs that it’s time to flush and follow the safety precautions to ensure a smooth process.

Don’t let sediment settle and steal the heat from your home’s water supply. Embrace the empowerment of DIY home maintenance, and when in doubt, reach out to the professionals at Benjamin Franklin Plumbing Kansas City. Now you can confidently enjoy the uninterrupted comfort of hot water in your home!

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the signs that indicate the need to flush a water heater?

If you notice frequent inconsistencies in water temperature, strange sounds from the water heater tank, water that tastes or smells strange, or any leaks, it might be time to flush your water heater.

What are the safety considerations when flushing a water heater?

When flushing a water heater, it’s important to be mindful of the risk of burns from hot water and potential flooding. Always use cold water and stay attentive to address any leaks or issues promptly.

What are the steps to flush a water heater?

To flush a water heater, start by turning off the heater and the cold water supply. Let the water in the tank cool, connect a garden hose to the drain valve, open a hot water faucet, and then open the drain valve to let the tank drain. Finally, finish by flushing the tank and allowing it to refill.

When should a professional plumber be called for flushing a water heater?

You should call a professional plumber if you notice major sediment build-up, slow or unclear water drainage, unusual noises, or leaks from the pressure-relief valve. A professional plumber can evaluate the issue and advise you about necessary repairs or suggest a water heater replacement.

How often should a water heater be flushed?

It’s recommended that you flush your water heater at least once per year, but if you have hard water, aim for flushing it two to three times annually.