Drain your water heaters


Senior Member
Hey guys,

I just wanted to give you guys a little safety tip and reminder. I am a new home owner and was not aware the it is recommended that you shut off your water heater and drain it once a year.

Here is why... Just last week I ran out of hot water while taking a shower. I thought nothing of it and went just got out and went to bed as usual. The next morning I noticed the while brushing my teeth the water never got hot but again I thought that maybe I just did not have the water running long enough and ignored it again. Then while at work I got a call from my wife telling me that there was no hot water.

When I came home to check on it the circuit break was not triped. I started looking around for any signs of problems and did not see any. So I took the covers off where the elements are located and the top element was fine.

Then I took the bottom cover off to access the bottom element. I nearly fainted when I realized what I was looking at. My element had actually started a fire behind that plate and burnt all of the insulation. It apeared that the fire lasted a minute or two before losing oxygen and putting its self out.

After doing a littler research I learned how to drain the tank and remove the element. While draining the tank it was very noticable why the element started a fire. There must have been 2 or three inches of sediment building up on the bottom of the tank and it had eventually reach the element and caused the resistance of the element to change from about 10 ohms to nearly 0 ohms. This cause the element to get very hot and set the wires on fire. This fire could have just as easily started inside of the wall and burned my house to the ground.

So take my advice and drain the tanks of your water heaters. Get the nasty crap out of the bottom of your tank. You may even want to consider adding a whole house filtration system if its an option.
Actually I decided not to go the tankless route just yet because a new element was only $15 and the tool to remove the old one was $5 both at homedepot in the section where you can find new water heaters.

So for only $20 I was able to fix the old one.

I just was not ready to re route all my plumbing and run the electrical because of the holiday and stuff. Plus I still have not found anyone here in MD that is using a tankless to confirm that they actually hold up to our climate. So, I am holding off on a tankless until I learn more about them.
I believe on some water heaters there is a "cleaning" metal element that you can get to by taking off the vent on top, then running this element up and down the tank.
Years ago Consumer's Gas up here used to provide a "tank cleaning" service for rental gas water heaters for free where they pumped a brine solution into the heater and then flushed it a few times. Too costly so they stopped doing it apparently.

Suddenly renting a water heater seemed silly when you could buy one for about $250 and save the $10 monthly fee.

My new gas heater instruction book says drain 6 litres (1.5 gallons) at 6 month intervals from the bottom cleanout valve (computer reminds me) and also to check the sacrificial rod about every 2 years.

So far so good. It's been 2 years now with no problems.

I just wish I could find an insulation wrap that would fit a 33 gallon gas heater to help save on gas costs.

I would like a tankless heater but they tell me I can't vent a tankless into a shared flue (furnace is on it too !) like the existing water heater now.

Anyway Happy New Year to everyone.........

Wow Squintz you must have hard water. Growing up in Kentucky in the karst region of Mammoth Cave, we had more calcium in our water than normal. We had to take our lower element out and using a clothes hanger scape out buckets of lime. The only problem I have when draining is that cheap plastic drain plug never wants to close and continue to drip.
I had some of the same maintainence issues that you had until I installed a water softener on my supply line comming into the house. You may look into this also, if you can do basic plumbing (sweating copper) and basic electrical the install will be an easy Sat. morning project.
On electric water heater tanks there is usually also an anode rod that can be changed in the tank every few years. This is similar to a sacrificial anode on a boat, for example. You can greatly lengthen the life of your hot water heater if you clean it out and change the anode according to the manufacturer's directions.
Squintz said:
Plus I still have not found anyone here in MD that is using a tankless to confirm that they actually hold up to our climate. So, I am holding off on a tankless until I learn more about them.
the plumbers I've talked to here in southern PA all say something to the effect of "if you ever plan to take a shower, a tankless will never pay for itself". Also, from what I understand, the parts are not as readily available for good tankless units. Parts tend to be more expensive, and because they arent used nearly as much, most plumbing supply houses around here do not carry them. I know Schumacher and Seiler doesnt carry them, and they're about the biggest supply company in the Baltimore area that I know of. Because of that, if you lose a control board for a tankless, you're out hot water for a week or more while you wait for the new parts, and then you have to wait for the plumber to put it in (which probably has to be done if you want the warranty to be honored). The general consensus 'round here is that it's a bad idea, but with everything, YRMV
shower? pay for itself? We have three units in my house (tankless) and they work 100%. The units are sold at home depot with parts so if mine ever breaks , then I just have to go to the local shop. I don't understand the question about shower and paying for itself. Please elaborate.
Almost all new homes built here use tankless. They say they will pay for themselves over time.

Why do you have 3 units?
My first experience with the tankless systems was while visiting my Dad in Japan.

He has a little condo in a highrise that doesn't have room for a tank of hot water.

What was cool about the system he has (and adds to the overall savings) was that there is a control pad in the kitchen and in the bathroom that turns the pilot light on and off.

I would imagine a system like that would be just about the ultimate in savings when it comes to utilities costs. Only have the heater on when you need it the few times a day and you're all set.

I'm also a bit confused about the take a shower, lose your savings statement. It's my understanding that the gas systems can get away with using barely more than a pilot light which strikes me as being more efficient than heating and reheating a tank of sitting water. Now I do understand that tanks have insulation and additional insulation can be wrapped around it to retain the heat but even so no insulation (at least in this application) isn't perfect.

If the reading I've been doing is correct then the people who will see the greatest savings are those with electric water tanks (although if gas prices increase as people seem to think that may no longer be the case). The savings on gas isn't as high but I don't believe that included the savings you should see in your water bill.

Also, if you travel, have a summer/winter home, etc. this may be an even better solution because you won't have to remember to turn the tank on and off every time you leave or show up.

Personally, I like them and when I have a chance to settle down a little more I'm going to take another serious look at one.

I have one located near all major faucets (kitchen and baths.) This keeps water use down by not having to wait for hot water to travel 200 feet before it gets warm (it's instantaneously hot). These are electric heaters (essentially high power coffee pots under all the sinks.) at point of use. They are much cheaper than whole house tank less systems. The house is brand new so it was piped for a standard tank system (not installed but plumbed) with hot and cold pipes to each run (in case the tank less system failed.) Of course they draw 240v which was hell with all the high power lines and the miles of low voltage line. Because there are units at every major location, you will never get a cold shower when someone else turns on the hot water in another location. If I recall correctly it was about $1000 for installation over a standard tank system, which in comfort, has already been paid for. As to the cost saving, I have no idea.