How To Drain My Water Heater Fast

So it’s that time of year again and you need to go through your check list of things to do. “Water heater maintenance” comes up next on the list…Your absolute favorite, simplistic job.

Last year however it took you longer than you wanted it to and you were wondering a way to get the process sped up!

So, how do you drain your water heater faster? To drain your water heater faster, the airlock that gets created inside the tank will need to be broken, and atmospheric pressure will need to be maintained. Opening up your drain, pressure relief valve and faucets can all do the trick.

Stick around because there’s a lot more information regarding the drainage of your water tank that you won’t want to miss!

How To Drain The Water Heater

First off, it’s important to determine just how exactly you are going to drain this water heater of yours. If you have a tankless water heater, this post need not apply to you.

There’s a couple of things you’re going to need off the bat. You will need a garden hose, a place to drain the water, and (possibly) a pair of pliers.

  • Check to see if the pressure relief valve is operational – Simply open the lever and check to see if water spurts out. Careful! The water will be hot.
    • If this valve is not working, considering replacing it with a new one. A call to a licensed professional may be required.
  • Find a drainage source – This could be anything from your sump pump to a floor drain, a clean out, or even a bucket if you’re feeling up to the task!
  • Shut the appropriate power source off – If you have an electric water heater, simply go to the electrical panel in your house, find water heater and flip it off. Since this type of water heater is hardwired in, you cannot simply just unplug it from a wall, as a dedicated source is required.
    • I recommend getting one of these electrical pen testers off of Amazon as they can safely show you when there is no power to a source.
  • If you have a gas powered tank – If your water heater operates off of gas, you are going to want to ensure you flip the knob to the “pilot” setting or if you want to side with caution, you can simply turn it completely off
    • Having the power source shut off to the water heater BEFORE you drain the tank will save the elements within the water heater from frying (for electric) and will ensure safety for gas powered.

Note – If you are ever unsure on how to do anything mentioned in the article it is always recommended to call a professional for help and assistance as they deal with this kind of stuff frequently.

  • Shut the water supply off to the tank – Shut the cold water supply off to the tank before you start draining and open up your faucets to check if water is off. Leave the hot side of your faucet(s) open to help break the air lock occurring inside of your tank
  • *Optional – Because water heaters do just that: heat water, you might want to wait up to an hour after turning the power source off and water supply. This step isn’t absolutely necessary, but if you think you might scold yourself, this could be an additional step you can take
  • Hook up the hose to the drain of the water heater – You may require pliers for this job, but hand tightening the garden hose should be all that required. Find your drain source and open up the drain. Some drains require a flat head screw driver to open it up, but you might also be able to use a coin if you don’t have the screw driver
  • Use a bucket to capture water from the pressure relief valve – The pressure relief valve or t & p valve will allow you to drain some water from the tank in the early stages. You’ll want to do this in addition to draining the water from the bottom of the tank as having this valve open will help to break the air lock that’s created inside of the tank

Remember the straw analogy? If you put a straw in a cup of water, block the end of it with one of your fingers, pull it out, most of the water will remain inside of the straw. This is air lock and it caused by lack of atmospheric pressure through out the straw. As soon as you release your finger, the water falls out.

If you are preforming routine maintenance on your tank

  • Pay attention to the water coming out of the tank – You may notice that the water that comes out at the beginning of the draining process is a brownish color or has specs in it. This is o.k, and the reason we are draining this tank. Continue draining the water out of the tank until it runs clear and you are satisfied
    • The sediment that is inside of your tank tends to float all the way to the bottom, and since the location of your drain is right at the bottom of the tank, you are going to notice it come out first

If you are getting ready to remove the tank

  • Continue draining the tank until you get closer to the bottom
  • Shut the water supply off to the hot side – If you have a shut off valve on the hot supply of your tank, make sure you turn it off. If you don’t have one, I recommend having one installed
  • Cut the water supply below the valve – Using either copper cutters for copper pipe or PEX cutters for PEX piping, cut the water supply below the valve with a minimum of 3″ above the F.I.P fitting on the tank and 3″ from the valve. This is so that you have enough pipe to work with for reusing and re-installing another tank
    • Cutting the water lines will help give additional air to the tank, so be prepared for more water to flow out

To fully decommission your tank, consult a plumber to aid you.

You can check out my must have tools page to see exactly which tools I recommend for purchase that will give you the best bang for your buck, and you can find it by clicking here.

Now do these steps in reverse

  • Shut the drain off
  • Close the pressure relief or “t & p” valve
  • Detach the garden hose
  • Close the taps
  • Open up the water supply and make sure there is no leaks in the pressure relief valve or the drain, ensuring they’ve both been closed properly
  • Once the tank is full, turn your power source on again – In an electric water heater, the elements that heat up the tank can actually fry if they aren’t covered in water. There are elements close to the top of the tank and elements closer to the bottom of the tank

Why Do I Need To Drain My Water Heater?

There can actually be a couple of different reasons to drain your water heater.


A water heater, like all household fixtures requires routine maintenance which can involve things like draining out the sediment and checking up on the anode rod to see when it needs to be replaced.

I have a full article on anode rods and their purpose, so if you’d like to learn more about their role in the water heater click here. There is also some great insight into the water heater itself, so I definitely recommend you check it out!

Ensuring that sediment is cleared from your water heater will help to extend the life of it. Having as much pure water flow through the tank as possible keeps the tank healthy, and your drinking source clean.

It can also be a great indicator of potential corrosion in your tank. If you notice there is an unusual amount of sediment, it might be best to investigate further.

Flushing your tank every 1-3 years is recommended, with every year as the optimal amount.

Tank Removal

If you are ready for a new water heater, you are going to want to make sure that the current one you have is ready to head out the door.

A heater itself without water is quite heavy, now fill it up to the brim with water and it becomes impossible to lift. Draining the tank almost 100% completely is very important for being able to lug it up your stairs and out of your house!

Pro tip – If you are hiring a plumber to come install a new water heater, draining and removing your old one, as well as purchasing and picking up a new one can save you a significant amount of money on plumber charges. As both cost of labor is decreased with a shorter work window for a plumber and cost of material is decreased when plumbers typically mark up prices of fixtures they go pick up themselves.

How Can I Make Draining Lightning Speed?

To speed up the process of draining your water heater, there is a really cool tool made by Milwaukee called the M18 Transfer Pump (link to Amazon).

This tool can be both used to suck water out of a fixture but also be used in reverse to push water outwards. This tool will allow you to cut down drastically on the total amount of time it takes to drain your water heater.

How to use:

  • Simply hook up one end of your hose to the drain of the water heater and the other end to the tool
  • Grab a second hose (preferably a garden hose) and hook it up to the opposite side of the tool
  • Open up the drain and follow the above steps on how to drain a water heater
  • Turn the machine on and that’s it, you’re done


Tyler Takacs

My name is Tyler, I live in Ontario Canada and enjoy learning about common plumbing issues in the household. I have spent just over three years in the trades as a plumbers apprentice, but am now onto a less physical job. I still enjoy studying and learning about my own house's plumbing as well as finding ways to help others with their issues.

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