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#4796400 - 06/24/18 03:25 PM Public Service Announcement: Flush Your HW Heater
gathermewool Offline


Registered: 01/09/09
Posts: 6050
I recently performed the first flush for our new-to-us hot water heater in our new-to-us place. I was pretty blown away by how gross it was (see pics below of what drained out AFTER I finished flushing)!

The PO seemed like the kind of guy who would keep up with things like this, but it looks like this ten year-old heater had never been flushed, from the looks of the effluent!

My first place had a gas heater that failed (developed a leak) four years after I bought the place (1990's heater, so it was on borrowed time). I flushed it soon after purchase and it only evidenced a small amount of sediment and discolored water. I flushed it again within 6 months of it failing (IIRC) and the flush effluent was much cleaner-looking - there was no real sediment in the bucket.

//

BAD SIGN: While filling the tub (to clean the stupid jets in the stupid tub) for the second time in 30 minutes I noticed the hot water was coming out brown from the spigot. The cold water was clear and there were no hydrants being tested nearby, as far as I know, so that pointed me directly toward the HW heater. I stopped filling the tub and setup to flush the tank, waiting until the next day for the tank to cool down. Luckily, my wife and kid were away for the weekend, so I was able to shut off the hot water immediately, let things settle overnight, then flushed the tank the next morning, without delay. I flushed with a hose for five+ minutes, paused for half an hour, then performed second five+ minute flush.

What came out the during the first flush was medium-brown, with a decent amount of sediment, for at least the first 10-20 seconds! Afterward, the water slowly cleared, but still showed brown in the clear container I used to observe the effluent. I flushed using a ball valve on the end of the hose, filling the clear container and dumping it each time it filled to the top.

After the water remained clear for a couple of minutes at the end of the second flush I paused, waited another thirty minutes, then flushed again. The water was clear from the start of the third flush, so I considered it completed SAT.

I used a clear, white plastic container to catch the remainder of what didn't drain from the hose while disconnecting. What came out in the initial (remainder) flush was what you see below. One picture of it unsettled; one picture settled; one picture of the bottom of the container. I turned on the water just enough to flush the last bit of low-settled sediment flow from the tank drain. I didn't think to take pictures of the actual flush results, sorry!






I'm expecting to have to replace this heater within the next several years. I've got a moisture sensor in its vicinity, hooked up to our Samsung Smartthings hub.

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#4796439 - 06/24/18 03:56 PM Re: Public Service Announcement: Flush Your HW Heater [Re: gathermewool]
CT8 Offline


Registered: 10/09/14
Posts: 11210
Loc: Idaho
where I used to live the water doing a yearly flush looked like it was snowing. Even with the yearly drains the water heater would only last at the most 10 years.
_________________________
"Don't let your preconceived notions get in the way of facts."
Geoff Metcalf

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#4796478 - 06/24/18 04:52 PM Re: Public Service Announcement: Flush Your HW Heater [Re: gathermewool]
MasterSolenoid Offline


Registered: 09/26/17
Posts: 173
Loc: One Step Beyond
gathermewool, thanks for the PSA
Do you have Well Water or Municipal Treated ?
I have municipal water and it's never really bad.
I drain 1 quart out every Month and inspect.

You may want to:
Remove the Factory Drain Valve and install a 3/4" Ball Valve for better flow on the tank



Water Alarms are good to have

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#4796485 - 06/24/18 04:58 PM Re: Public Service Announcement: Flush Your HW Heater [Re: gathermewool]
MasterSolenoid Offline


Registered: 09/26/17
Posts: 173
Loc: One Step Beyond
I heard that Cooks don't use hot water from the tank for that reason.
Like if your making spaghetti or rice.
Use 'cold' water and heat it on a burner.

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#4796488 - 06/24/18 05:05 PM Re: Public Service Announcement: Flush Your HW Heater [Re: gathermewool]
Kestas Offline



Registered: 06/04/02
Posts: 12392
Loc: The Motor City
I tried to flush the water heater of my new place shortly after I moved in. A bit of mud came out, then nothing! I have a well and the water heater is so corroded with debris on the bottom that it's a lost cause. I'll just wait until it gives up then replace it.

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#4796504 - 06/24/18 05:31 PM Re: Public Service Announcement: Flush Your HW Heater [Re: Kestas]
55hambone Offline


Registered: 04/08/16
Posts: 2
Loc: GA
My mother's home is on a well and when I tried to flush the water heater I got a trickle from the short hose for a moment and then-nothing. Turned off the water and opened a hot water faucet and blew into the hose that I used. I heard water bubbling and then got a stream of water with sediment until it clogged again. Kept doing that until it was drained. I ran a longer hose into the yard and turned the water back on and let it go until no more sediment came out. Just make sure that you start by turning the water heater off.


Edited by 55hambone (06/24/18 05:31 PM)

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#4796529 - 06/24/18 06:18 PM Re: Public Service Announcement: Flush Your HW Heater [Re: gathermewool]
FowVay Offline


Registered: 06/02/02
Posts: 2685
Loc: Southeastern USA
I've always filled my car wash bucket from the water heater drain when I make my car was water. I guess this is the same as flushing the tank because it drains the water at little bit at a time. I've never had anything come out of the water tank because it gets a few gallons drained from it monthly. I don't know if this is good or bad but it's how I've been doing it for years.
_________________________
Quaker State across the board.

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#4796547 - 06/24/18 06:39 PM Re: Public Service Announcement: Flush Your HW Heater [Re: MasterSolenoid]
Wolf359 Offline


Registered: 04/27/12
Posts: 4875
Loc: MA
Originally Posted By: MasterSolenoid
I heard that Cooks don't use hot water from the tank for that reason.
Like if your making spaghetti or rice.
Use 'cold' water and heat it on a burner.


They don't use it because you also get metals like magnesium or aluminum depending on the type of anode rod you have in the water heater. You're also not supposed to drink from it too for the same reason. Aluminum levels are also high in people with Alzheimer.

You could also change the anode rod. I've mentioned it a few times in the past. You get a lot more years out of the water heater when you change it out. Also those plastic drain valves that come with most water heaters are sort of useless for draining them, hardly anything comes out of them. Better to swap it for a brass one.

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#4796560 - 06/24/18 06:50 PM Re: Public Service Announcement: Flush Your HW Heater [Re: gathermewool]
Donald Offline


Registered: 03/21/04
Posts: 20547
Loc: Upstate NY
Never had a gas water heater, always electric or via oil boiler?

But new to me house is gas. With water sensor next to it.


When you drain the water heater do you turn off the feed and drain the water from the tank, or just turn on the drain and let water flow through the heater and out the drain?

If you drain it, I assume you turn off the gas? How do they re-light? Or are they electric ignition these days. Heater is probably 5 yr old.
_________________________
2015 Subaru Forester 2.5 engine/CVT
2015 Ford F250 w/Powerstroke
2016 Subaru Crosstrek CVT (wife's)


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#4796570 - 06/24/18 06:57 PM Re: Public Service Announcement: Flush Your HW Heater [Re: Donald]
Wolf359 Offline


Registered: 04/27/12
Posts: 4875
Loc: MA
Originally Posted By: Donald
Never had a gas water heater, always electric or via oil boiler?

But new to me house is gas. With water sensor next to it.


When you drain the water heater do you turn off the feed and drain the water from the tank, or just turn on the drain and let water flow through the heater and out the drain?

If you drain it, I assume you turn off the gas? How do they re-light? Or are they electric ignition these days. Heater is probably 5 yr old.


If you just open the drain, probably not that much will come out. When I swap water heaters, all the sediment comes out when it's almost empty.

So yes, you should turn off the feed and turn off the gas so you're not heating an empty water heater. I believe most new ones have a push button ignition so it's easy to light, you normally just hold a button down, press the ignition a few times til you see a light in the sight glass.

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#4796641 - 06/24/18 08:26 PM Re: Public Service Announcement: Flush Your HW Heater [Re: gathermewool]
Rat407 Offline


Registered: 12/13/02
Posts: 1492
Loc: North Carolina
Mom had to replace her water heater this year. It was 16yrs old. They never flushed it. I'm sure it would have lasted longer if they did. They are on municipal water in the mountains of Pa.
_________________________
2002 Silverado 5.3 0w-20 AMSOIL

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#4796808 - 06/25/18 01:05 AM Re: Public Service Announcement: Flush Your HW Heater [Re: gathermewool]
oldhp Offline


Registered: 06/28/12
Posts: 1652
Loc: USA
Before I turn the AC on in the spring, I take drain hose off the AC drain and use it to flush the water heater. Only way I can remember to do it.
_________________________


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#4796832 - 06/25/18 04:23 AM Re: Public Service Announcement: Flush Your HW Heater [Re: oldhp]
Triple_Se7en Offline


Registered: 12/04/04
Posts: 8913
Loc: 1/2 hr. north of Detroit
Originally Posted By: oldhp
Before I turn the AC on in the spring, I take drain hose off the AC drain and use it to flush the water heater. Only way I can remember to do it.


My living room thermostat - that controls heat and air conditioning, is in the furnace room - a million miles away from the hot water tank.

On a similar note of yours, I can only remember to change the furnace filter, when I flush the hot water tank with a garden hose-to-floor drain attachment, once every two months. My furnace is right next to my hot water tank.

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#4797020 - 06/25/18 09:37 AM Re: Public Service Announcement: Flush Your HW Heater [Re: oldhp]
gathermewool Offline


Registered: 01/09/09
Posts: 6050
Re-reading my OP, it's a little confusing. Our old place had a gas water heater from the 90s. I flushed it every so often, without any noticeable buildup. It failed (leaked) a few years after we moved in.

The new place, our current place, has an electric water heater that's ~ 10 years old. The flushing and pictures are from this electric HW heater.

Originally Posted By: MasterSolenoid
gathermewool...Do you have Well Water or Municipal Treated ?


We're on city water.

The current electric water heater has a round drain valve, with a concentric handle. I'll definitely consider replacing it with a more reliable fitting and ball valve the next time I drain and flush the tank.

Originally Posted By: MasterSolenoid
I heard that Cooks don't use hot water from the tank for that reason.
Like if your making spaghetti or rice.
Use 'cold' water and heat it on a burner.


The concern isn't the sediment, which should settle out at the bottom of the tank and is mostly from sourced from the influent water (tap or well). The concern with consuming hot water is the heavy metal that leach from the sacrificial anode rod. This rod literally gives itself up to galvanic corrosion, so that the tank doesn't lose its own material and develop a leak. If you boat, it's the same principal as the sacrificial anode on your outboard (or I/OB), or any heat exchanger.

Originally Posted By: Kestas
I tried to flush the water heater of my new place shortly after I moved in. A bit of mud came out, then nothing! I have a well and the water heater is so corroded with debris on the bottom that it's a lost cause. I'll just wait until it gives up then replace it.


I've heard of this before. If you've got a sump pump, bilge pump, some hose (and few other things), you could maybe loosen the existing drain valve and let it dribble into some intermediate container until empty; use some tygon hose and a pump to draw suction and drain the intermediate container; send effluent to a suitable drain. The supply must be off, of course, otherwise you'll be there literally forever!

Ensure you can loosen and tighten the drain valve to the heater a few times before you loosen it enough to drain, ensuring you don't end up with a valve stuck with only 2 threads engaged and copious amounts of water flooding your basement!

Have a normal drain hose connected, too, and try to work the valve open and shut while it's loose at the heater. Dripping dirty water from the loosened valve may clear just enough mud to allow continuous flow through the normal drain hose. At that point, you can flush normally, so long as it doesn't clog back up!

Originally Posted By: FowVay
I've always filled my car wash bucket from the water heater drain when I make my car was water. I guess this is the same as flushing the tank because it drains the water at little bit at a time. I've never had anything come out of the water tank because it gets a few gallons drained from it monthly. I don't know if this is good or bad but it's how I've been doing it for years.


The main purpose of the water heater drain port is to drain the tank for replacement. The second purpose is to allow flushing of sediment and other particulates/sludge that accumulates in the bottom of the tank.

I personally wouldn't use the heater drain as my source of wash water, but since you're doing so frequently, there's likely very little abrasive sediment. So, you if you're not having any paint issues with your car due to abrasives, then you might be killing two birds with one stone - congrats!

Originally Posted By: Donald
Never had a gas water heater, always electric or via oil boiler?

But new to me house is gas. With water sensor next to it.


When you drain the water heater do you turn off the feed and drain the water from the tank, or just turn on the drain and let water flow through the heater and out the drain?

If you drain it, I assume you turn off the gas? How do they re-light? Or are they electric ignition these days. Heater is probably 5 yr old.


Previous place was gas; current place is electric.

I never flush a hot water heater hot. I always turn off the gas or open the breaker to let it cool down to a comfortably warm temperature, so I don't 1. have hot water spewing from a failed connection, causing a personnel hazard; or 2. damage my medium-duty garden hose.

The old HW heater in my old place had a pilot light that needed to be relit. Hold a butane lighter in a hole in the lower access cover (for this purpose) and turn on the gas.

The new HW heater in my old place has push-button ignition. Set dial to pilot and push button over and over until pilot lights.

New place is electric. Open/shut breaker.



Originally Posted By: oldhp
Before I turn the AC on in the spring, I take drain hose off the AC drain and use it to flush the water heater. Only way I can remember to do it.


Smart way to think of it.

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#4800348 - 06/29/18 07:58 AM Re: Public Service Announcement: Flush Your HW Heater [Re: gathermewool]
onetwoothreee Offline


Registered: 02/28/18
Posts: 85
Loc: Illinois
It worked! I Googled the instructions, but it's pretty much hooking up a hose and letting it drain (opening the pressure relief valve and a hot water faucet let it drain faster). You of course have to turn off the tank and gas first. I got maybe a cup of what looked like sand, and the water out of the tap isn't as cloudy anymore. I like to make coffee with hot water because I like the way it tastes; it's one of the first things I noticed.

Only thing I can think of was that it took longer than I thought and I jumped on the hose a few times to push the water back in the tank, as if it did any good. I thought maybe it would clog up or something, but it didn't. I ended up setting the temperature a little lower too; I'm happy I did it.

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