5 Ways to Clean Sediment from an Electric Water Heater

Water bubbles

We all know how important it is to maintain and clean your appliances regularly to keep them in top shape. However, many people don’t know how crucial it is to regularly flush your water heater and get rid of sediment build-up according to this review on the best rated electric tankless water heater.

By creating a barrier between the heating elements, sediment can make it impossible for you to access your water supply. It can also diminish the efficiency and lifespan of your heater. So, let’s see how you can keep your electric water heater in perfect condition for longer.


How to Flush Sediment from an Electric Water Heater

Method 1

You’ll need:

  • A hose
  • A water-resistant bucket
  • A flathead screwdriver

Sediment Water Filter Cartridge In Transparent Plastic ContainerStart the process by turning the power switch off and making sure no one is trying to use the water. Then, turn the cold water valve off so you can start draining the tank. The process can take up to 2 hours, depending on how big your water heater tank is. Also, an important thing to remember is to never drain the tank while the water is still hot.

Attach a garden hose to the drain valve on your water heater to start draining the tank. Make sure the hose is attached properly, so water doesn’t start pouring down while you’re trying to drain the tank. Put the other end of the hose in a drain or a heat resistant bucket to avoid accidentally flooding your home.

Next, turn on the faucet and set it on “hot” to prevent a vacuum from forming in your pipes and creating air bubbles. You shouldn’t see a lot of water coming out of the faucet if you’ve properly turned off the cold water valve.

Then, using a screwdriver, start turning the “drain” valve slowly and make sure your drain or bucket isn’t overflowing. Continue the process until you only see clear water, and you’re sure all of the sediments have been drained out of the tank. Lastly, you should turn the drain valve off, and turn the cold water valve and the heating elements back on.

Method 2

You’ll need:

  • Vinegar
  • A hose
  • A bucket

Start by turning the power outlet and the main water off. Remove all of the elements from your electric water heater and let them soak in vinegar overnight. Next, turn your faucets on and set them on “hot” so a vacuum doesn’t begin to form in your pipes. Then, empty the water tank by attaching one end of a hose to the drain valve, and the other one into a bucket or a drain.

Turn the main water valve on, and you should start seeing the sediment drain out little by little. Next, turn the main water valve off, and install all of the elements you’ve removed. Once you’ve made sure everything is where it should be, turn the main water valve back on and fill the tank. Lastly, turn the power back on and you should have your full hot water supply back in about 2 hours.

It’s best to repeat the process every six months or so, and if the problem persists — consider changing your drain valve.

Method 3

You’ll need:

  • A wire coat hanger
  • A bucket

Heating elements of water heater with scum and sedimentYou should start by cutting off the water supply to the tank, draining it, and removing the drain valve. Next, use a wire coat hanger to scrape off the debris located at the bottom of your heater. Open the cold water supply valve to flush the sediment from the water out of the water heater.

Keep repeating the process until you can’t remove any more debris. Then, start refilling the water heater and checking for leaks. The process will also flush all of the air out of the system, so you can turn the water heater back on.

Method 4

You’ll need:

  • 2 gallons of white vinegar
  • 3 hoses
  • 3 buckets

I want to start by saying that this is by far one of the most thorough methods — but it’s also the most powerful one. Now, as with previous methods, start by disconnecting the power supply and turning off the water heater. Additionally, close both the hot and cold water valves and the hot water purge port. Remove the cap of the purge port valve and open the drain caps while ensuring that the rubber washer sealing is still in the cap.

Once you’ve drained the water from the tank, close both drain valves and attach one hose to the hot outlet port so the water can seep into a bucket or a drain. Attach one more hose from the pump’s inlet to a different bucket, and a third one from the cold water port to the pump.

Once you’ve made sure everything is properly connected, pour the white vinegar into the bucket attached to the pump. Turn the valve on to start spreading vinegar through the water heater and back to the hot water port. The sediment should be drained into a bucket, and you can repeat the process until the vinegar appears clean.

To remove the vinegar from your heater’s system, you can fill the bucket with 2 gallons of water and repeat the process. A good rule of thumb is to keep doing this until you have run at least 5 buckets of clean water through the system. Finally, you can remove all three hoses, close the ports, and turn the water valves back on. Once everything’s back to where it was, you can turn the water heater back on and fill the tank.

Method 5

Last but not least, perhaps the most efficient way to get rid of sediment long term — installing a water softener. Although it’s on the pricier side, the device can help you cut down the number of times you need to flush your water heater drastically. However, you’ll still need to flush the system out occasionally to improve the water quality in your home.


Final Thoughts

How often you need to clean the sediment out of your electric water heater depends on the quality of your water. However, although some do it more often out of necessity, everyone should clean their tanks at least twice a year. The process doesn’t take a lot of time and can save you a lot of money in maintenance fees.

You can use any of the methods I have listed in the article, depending on how severe the problem is. I would recommend the first three if you don’t have a lot of time or money, and the latter two if you want to ensure your heater stays cleaner for longer.

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