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Old 05-23-2008, 03:30 PM   #1
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Do not drain/test water heater?


A very common rule of thumb I've always heard is to drain the water heater once a year (removing the sediment) and test the t/p valve once a year as well.
However, recently a handyman and a retired plumber both told me I should never drain or test the water heaters because it the valves stick open all the time and it isn't worth the trouble.
Who is correct?

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Old 05-23-2008, 04:00 PM   #2
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Do not drain/test water heater?


Well.....both, sort of. It is true that there is a pretty good chance that you will wind up having to replace the drain valve after you drain the heater. And the T&P might start leaking too. I still think it is worth the risk. Here's why.

The reason for draining the water heater is to remove any sediment that might build up in the bottom of the tank. This is more of an issue with gas water heaters. Sediment build up decreases the efficiency of the heat transfer from the burner, so it costs more to heat the same amount of water. It's true that the cheap, plastic drain valves that come on most heaters may start leaking after you actually use them, but a new brass drain valve is less than $5 and is very easy to replace once the heater has been drained. Once you've replace it you can drain the heater every year with no worries. If you do decide to drain it, go ahead and open the valve again once it is empty to flush it out good.

The T&P is probably one of the most important safety devices in your house. Did you see the Mythbusters episode where they capped the T&P, simulated a failed safety cut off and blew up a small shed when the water heater exploded and went about 100 feet into the air? Something like that really happens every few years somewhere. Since a T&P is also only about $5, I think it's better to risk having to replace one that to risk having one stuck shut and not knowing it. Admittedly, it is very rare for a T&P to be stuck closed but if it happens the risk is enormous.

Don't freak out. I don't want to be overly dramatic about this, you could probably go your entire life and never have a problem if you just leave your water heater alone. But there are some pretty compelling arguments for doing these two maintenance chores on a water heater.

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Old 05-23-2008, 05:53 PM   #3
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Do not drain/test water heater?


Mstplumber is right. I recently broke down and tested my T&P, and the danged thing leaks a couple drops per minute now. I bought a new one for $6 and am replacing it. So, lesson learned....It is easier to just replace it every couple years. It is cheap insurance.

I've never had trouble with the drain leaking, but I can see how that could happen.

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Old 05-23-2008, 06:14 PM   #4
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Do not drain/test water heater?


Re: Water haeter drain valve sticking open after draining sediment. I make it a point that when I install a new water heater I remove the cheap drain valve that comes with it and install a 3/4 inch full port ball valve with a brass pipe to hose fitting. It will newer leak and makes draining in the future much faster
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Old 05-23-2008, 06:38 PM   #5
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Do not drain/test water heater?


Quote:
Originally Posted by rjniles View Post
Re: Water haeter drain valve sticking open after draining sediment. I make it a point that when I install a new water heater I remove the cheap drain valve that comes with it and install a 3/4 inch full port ball valve with a brass pipe to hose fitting. It will newer leak and makes draining in the future much faster
I like that idea. I will end up doing it now.
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Old 05-24-2008, 01:51 PM   #6
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Do not drain/test water heater?


Then I'll probably go with 'biannual' water heater maintenance or something like that, and keep extra valves handy in case leaks happen.

About the sediment - the only practical thing for me to do is run the drainage hose out to the cement driveway. Does the sediment stain concrete, or can it be washed off easily?
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Old 05-25-2008, 12:46 AM   #7
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Do not drain/test water heater?


The sediment shouldn't stain your driveway anymore than chalk would. It is generally calcium and mineral deposits. Just wash it off the drive if you're concerned. I can't imagine anything in the water heater huring the drive permanently.
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Old 05-25-2008, 11:47 AM   #8
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Do not drain/test water heater?


The t/p valve will almost be gauranteed to leak once you open it, so be prepared to replace it, or leave it alone. Draining the sediment is a good maintenace routine, but again be prepared to replace the pitiful drain fittings that come in the heater with a quality brass valve or boiler cock, so that you can open it in the future without leak problems.
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Old 05-26-2008, 09:31 AM   #9
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Do not drain/test water heater?


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The t/p valve will almost be gauranteed to leak once you open it, so be prepared to replace it, or leave it alone. Draining the sediment is a good maintenace routine, but again be prepared to replace the pitiful drain fittings that come in the heater with a quality brass valve or boiler cock, so that you can open it in the future without leak problems.
i agree,,, need to replace mine now
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Old 05-27-2008, 02:05 AM   #10
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Do not drain/test water heater?


Great advice!

I have done the "de-winterizing" on a few cold water heaters on forelosures that had been "winterized" this Spring.

A quick reminder to keep the breakers and pilot lights off until the tank is full. I've replaced either elements or entire heaters so far this season because the the folks failed to do that during the winterization process or when the Municipality providing water service shut it off and not to mention a safety issue.

Cheers

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