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Sediment in a hot water heater.

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Recently there has been posts about draining hot water heaters and the pros as well as the cons in doing this. Typical maintenance on a hot water heater is to flush the bottom drain at least once a year. 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.
After draining you may find that the flush hose bib valve at the bottom will not turn off. This is because of some sediment that has blocked the valve and prevented it from turning off. If that happens a hose bib cap can be purchased at the local hardware store for about $1.50 put that on and your good to go. The photo is the inside of such a valve on a hot water heater that was 6 years old and had never been flushed. We tried to empty this tank to replace with a new high efficiency tankless, next photo but the hole was so small it only trickled out. The new heater will produce enough hot water for two showers, one laundry and one dishwasher to run all at the same time.

Got a question about this project?

  • Woodbridge Environmental Tiptophouse.com
    Woodbridge Environmental Tiptophouse.com Colonia, NJ
    on May 31, 2013

    There are two types of vents on a hot water heater. One that is a pressure vent that you should test yearly, unless you have never done this and the heater is a few years old. And a combustion vent, only on a gas or oil fired heater. Electrical heaters do not have them. So depends upon the type of heater you have in your trailer. If its gas, then you would have a small chimney out the top or going out the side with a larger metal plate that surrounds it saying HOT. There is nothing to worry about with that. You should however check it for rust holes or damage after a bad wind storm or at least once yearly for safety. A CO tester should be installed near the heater as well as a precaution. The Pressure or T&P vent on every hot water heater regardless of size or type of fuel they use to make the water hot is located on either the side or the top of the heater. This Brass colored device should have a pipe that extends down towards the floor to about four or six inches above. Sometimes they are not installed but should be for increased safety. This brass device normally has a small metal tag located just below a little lever that is located on the end of the device. This is the manual override to open and test. Inside this device is a pressure spring and a temp relive device. Should for any reason the hot water heater heating source not turn off the water becomes super heated and can cause the heater to explode. This small brass device senses this over heating and over pressure and opens up to let off some of the pressure to prevent the explosion from occurring. The manufacture suggests that on a yearly basis that you manually open the little metal handle by pulling it out and releasing it for just a few seconds. This exercising of the device prevents corrosion on the inside of the valve from building up thus preventing it from sticking and not working should the need arise. HOWEVER after a few years some corrosion does collect around the interior seal of the valve. Normally not enough to worry about but just enough to fall into the seal when you test it. The result is a drip that does not stop out of the extension pipe that should be located near the floor. Once that happens you will need to replace that valve. Not a big deal, the device costs around $25-35. plus the labor of the plumber or handy person you hire to do the job for you. Of course if your handy you can do this yourself. You just need to turn off the water, and the fuel so the heater does not try to operate and drain a few gallons out so the water level is below the opening of the valve itself. Hope this answers your question MO.

  • Thats great to hear Sarah Kmetz. Glad to help. Thats why I am here for.

  • Elizabeth
    Elizabeth Middleburg, FL
    on Jun 12, 2015

    The water heater at the last house my ex and I owned had never been drained. It suddenly quit working and when the guy came to check it, that was exactly what we found. The sediment was so deep that could not be removed. The heater had to be replaced, but we had to get 2 men who were working next door to help take it out! Thankfully the heater had 1 month to go on warranty and it was replaced free of charge. You have to be religious about these things!

  • Correy.smith321
    Correy.smith321
    on Jan 12, 2016

    Oh wow, the first picture sure gave me a depiction of what a sediment filled water heater looks like. Having looked at that had me wanting to check up on my heater and maybe talk to an HVAC contractor about it. Well, mostly to see how old it is and if there are any problems to it because my wife did tell me that the unit takes time to start up. <a href='http://www.fhaservices.com' ></a>

  • Dan Moss
    Dan Moss Amherst, OH
    on Mar 13, 2016

    One option to draining is called a power flush. No matter what the age is or whether or not you have flushed in the past. You can Perform a mini power flush. Simply hook a hose up to the drain valve and flush about five gallons while the tank is still on. This will not remove all off the sediment and may have to be performed several times, but if you think a full drain down is going to put you risk of leak, it is an option. If the water heater is 10-15 years old it time to replace anyway.

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