House & Home

Why Draining Your Hot Water Heater Might Be a Mistake

Posted March 28, 2013 9:25 p.m. EDT

This thing happens in the DIY blog-o-sphere. A plumbing expert gets up on YouTube and gives a tutorial of how to clean out the sediment from your water heater. You've read a bunch of articles online, on websites that even look reputable(!), and they tell you to empty your water heater and flush out the sediment. They don't mention one important caveat: It's a very good idea to remove the sediment from your tank water heater; but if you haven't done it in years, flushing your water heater will cause problems you have never imagined.

This is what can happen to your water heater if it has been collecting sediment for years, and you suddenly drain it: your water heater will spring a leak. According to Woodbridge Environmental, an Elizabeth New Jersey contractor and home inspector, who brought the topic up on, "In some towns where they flush their fire hydrants to keep the pipes clear it is suggested to follow their lead a few days after as any sediment that is disturbed ends up on the bottom of your heater.

"What happens then is water displacement. The sandy partials that collect on the bottom of the tank displaces the water ever so slightly. This results in hot spots on the bottom of the tank. When this occurs the flames overheat the tank and begin to break down the steel. After many years this breakdown ends up becoming a tiny hole that is filled with this debris, oftentimes preventing the leak."

"However if you decide to drain your heater after many years of not doing it, or all of a sudden you start using the heater more then normal, this sediment that has been plugging that tiny hole is flushed out, often resulting in a leak in a few days after."

"So the moral is to flush yearly, but if you have not done so for many years to not touch it or you will end up with a leak."

Have you ever encountered this problem? Share your experiences in the comments.

Chaya Kurtz writes for

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