How to Bleed a Hot Water Heater

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As you use a hot water heater to warm the water in your household, "bleeding" your tank helps ensure the system continues to work well. Bleeding helps remove mineral deposits that settle at the bottom, which potentially affects the heating capability. Your tank needs to be bled at least once a year, but if your hot water heater experiences a lot of sediment buildup from hard water, perform this biannually. Use a few household items to bleed your hot water heater and extend its life.

Things You'll Need

  • Gloves
  • Safety goggles
  • Newspapers
  • Garden hose
  • Large bucket (optional)
  • Wash rag
  • Bowl
  • Put on a pair of gloves and safety goggles to protect yourself from the hot water of your heater. Lay newspapers underneath the heater's threaded nozzle (drain valve) to protect your floor and attach a garden hose to the valve. Allow the hose to run outside, or position a large bucket underneath the hose's opening to catch the water.

  • Turn off your heater using the "On/Off" control switch, which is typically located toward the bottom of your tank. Switch off the cold water inlet (labeled "cold") on the heater.

  • Set a gas water heater's valve to "Pilot," or turn off the circuit breakers if you have an electric system. These precautions ensure the heating elements are not affected during the bleed-out process.

  • Use a wash rag to cover the drain valve opening and then slowly turn the valve to the left to open it and begin the bleeding process. Wait for the hissing noise as the air escapes, and then allow the water to run until clear. The water appears as a milky color due to the sediment being released.

  • Close the drain valve by turning the handle back to the right and remove the garden hose. Turn the cold water inlet back on and then move the gas water heater knob back to the "On" setting. If applicable, turn the circuit breakers back on.

Tips & Warnings

  • A bubbling or gurgling sound indicates that your hot water heater needs to bled out.
  • If your hot water heater does not fill with water automatically, you may need to add more water after the bleeding procedure until it reaches the pressure that your system requires. Reference your owner's manual to find out how to achieve the correct pressure again. This process is typically done by opening the water supply line until the right pressure is achieved.
  • Do not over-tighten the drain valve when you close it to avoid damage.
  • Hire a certified hot water heater technician if you find that you cannot complete the process, or need assistance with further maintenance tasks.
  • Keep your hands and face away from the drain valve when it is opening to avoid getting burned. Further, make sure children and pets are away during the bleed-out procedure.

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  • Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images
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