How To Prepare A Troubled Water Heater Before The Plumber Comes Out

If it looks like your water heater has a problem, be on the safe side until the plumber arrives. Turn the water heater off and drain the water from the tank. Allowing a water heater that is isn't working properly to continue to run can lead to more serious problems. Although it isn't difficult to turn off and drain water heaters, the job is easier if you are familiar with how they work.

Signs that your water heater has a problem include:

  • Standing water near the heater that may indicate a leak or rusted tank

  • Banging or knocking noises caused by sediment buildup inside the water tank

  • Overheating due to a heating element remaining on instead of cycling off

  • Water doesn't get hot enough because of a malfunctioning thermostat

  • No hot water often caused by a broken heating element in an electric heater or a broken thermocouple (control device) in a gas water heater

To shut off your water heater and let the water drain out:

  1. Go to the electric panel box. Switch the circuit breaker for an electric water heater to the "off" position. If you have a gas water heater, twist the control knob located on top of the thermostat from the "on" to the "off" position.

  2. Turn the handle of the water valve in a clockwise direction. You may need to turn the valve all the way to shut off the cold water supply to the water heater. Look for the valve close to the water heater on the cold water line.

  3. Open a hot water faucet upstairs to let air into the water tank and help it drain. Don't forget to remove the aerator from the faucet. Calcium deposits in the tank can move through the water pipes when you drain the tank and clog the faucets.

  4. Raise the handle of the water heater's relief valve all the way up so that it locks into place. The valve is a safety device to relieve pressure when the temperature inside the tank rises if something goes wrong with the thermostat. You can use the pressure relief valve on an older water heater to let air into the tank.

  5. Attach a garden hose to the water heater's drain valve located near the bottom of the tank on the side. The drain valve may be brass or plastic. Run the hose to the outside so that the other end is lower than the water heater's drain valve. Make certain the water heater is turned off before draining it. Otherwise, you run the risk of being electrocuted by faulty wiring or an electrical component inside the water heater. You also need to use caution as you could be burned by scalding water.

  6. Turn the drain valve on and drain all of the water from the heater's tank through the hose. Depending on the type of valve, you may need a flathead screwdriver to open it. If the water only trickles out, the drain valve may be blocked with sediment, calcium deposits, or rust. In that case, use a thin gauge wire to unclog the opening.