Draining a Water Heater.

One house I own, the water heater drains just fine. Put a hose on the outlet on the bottom and turn it on. The house is on a lot that is on a slope, so the gravity helps. But my other house in Florida is another story. I can't get the WH to drain. What am I doing wrong?
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in2dadark wrote:

Hmm, Gravity? How about openning a hot water faucet at the highest locationin the house for venting for a stater.
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if the heater is older your probably best off top let it be.
go messing around changing valves may cause your elderly heater to start leaking.
when it gets replaced toss the regular drain valve, and install a brass ball valve, for easier draining
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Like he says, with old WH, just leave it go.
You may have to rig an air valve to a faucet some where in the sytem. Pump in some compressed air, to blow the water out.
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Andy comments:
A pressure fitting can be obtained from an RV supply house which is usually used to hook an air compressor to the water system to winter-proff an RV by clearing out the lines. They won't drain on their own and all the water needs to be taken out.
This technique can be used on a house using the following method.
1) Turn off the main water line into the house 2) Hook the pressure fitting to any ourside faucet, You may need a female-female adapter. 3) Hook the air compressor up to the Schrader valve on the pressure fitting. Any air compressor can be used, including those little hand portable types that we carry in our cars. The air volume rate doesn't matter much. 4) Turn on the water heater drain. Now, instead of 4 or 5 psi forcing the water out, you will have 30-40 psi forcing it out. If the water does not contain rust or rust particles, you might as well stop. If the water starts running clear, you can stop. No further rustandjunk will be coming out.
So, that's how one would use air pressure to speed up the process, and , possibly, to blast thru a small stoppage at the drain valve. If nothing comes out the drain valve at all, use the previous poster's idea of reverse flushing. To do this, turn off the inlet valve to the water heater and open a hot water tap somewhere. This will reduce the pressure inside the heater to zero, and allow the flushing hose to force water into it.
Just think it through. It ain't rocket surgery, but it ain't always obvious, either.
Andy in Eureka, Texas
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Why does he need to go through all that, when the same or higher pressure is right there on the drain valve all the time? Typical residential water pressure is 40-60 PSI. If water won't come out when the drain valve is open with the supply line turned on, then the valve is clogged.
Per hallerb's advice, if that's the case, it's probably best to leave it alone. We don't know the age of the unit, but if it's well into it's lifespan, trying to replace the valve he could end up buying a new one now.

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Bad valve or crud as Bob posted. The valves the MFG have used in the last 10 years or so are only marginally better than the cheap plastic stemmed cutoff valves used under sinks and toilets.
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I opened the drain with a hose on it and nothing. Then I took the hose off and opened it and nothing. I'll try some of these suggestions. It's not an old WH. I've just never bothered draining it. It's about 10 YO max. Thanks
It also has one of those levers on it that releases the pressure. I moved that and water came out the pipe. But that releases water from the top, not the bottom and the pipe that comes from it is too close to the floor to put anything under it anyway.
Guess I'll try the simplest thing first..uh.. opening a tap. Not sure if that makes a diff. But I can see it may. I always have one open in the other place but that is because I'm winterizing it. This place doesn't get that kind of weather.
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On 10/24/2010 6:32 PM in2dadark spake thus:

If you opened the drain valve (or tried to and failed) and no water came out, then it's not going to do any good opening faucets and whatnot: that valve just isn't open, and you're not going to get a drop to drain out. So you need to work on getting that valve opened, perhaps destructively. And then replaced (or the whole water heater replaced).
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On Sun, 24 Oct 2010 18:32:46 -0700 (PDT), in2dadark

I think someone else said this. Hook an air compressor to your drain hose, open a hot water faucet, and pump air into the tank. The backward flow should open any mineral clog. Once it opens, remove air hose and turn the water back on, and try to flush out the tank UNDER PRESSURE (water on). Once you get all the crud out, you should be able to drain it. ALWAYS turn on a hot faucet in the house to let air into the tank. Otherwise it will take forever to drain. just like trying to pour gas from a gas can without opening the vent.
I have seen tanks that were so full of crud that you just can not drain them. That means repalcement. Of course you could remove the tank and flush it from the top (pipe inlets), but you'll never get all the crud out.
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Opening a tap some where else in the house allows air to come in.
What's the goal, here? If you're trying to remove sediment, then just put a hose on the lower drain faucet and open the faucet. If you're trying to empty the tank of water, then opening a faucet lets air in.
You may need to build some kind of adaptor, and use a compressor to pump air in, to force the water out.
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10 years is near or past end of life, i just replaced a 9 year old one this summer.
with such a old tank the best badvice is leave it be, till it starts leaking.
mess with it now might bring about a leak immediately, and tank will have to be replaced........
install ball valve on next tank for easy perodic draining
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I have a 3-unit property with 3 hot water heaters. When doing plumbing recently, one of the 3 would not drain. And, just like you, opening the pressure relief valve did cause water to come out of the top.
This particular water heater had a white plastic drain valve at the bottom. I tried taking apart the valve (very easy to do) by unscrewing what looks like a plastic cap that is around the valve stem. When I took that off, gooey goopey gunk came out of the valve and water gushed out. It was the valve itself that was clogged up with gunk and causing it not to drain. Then I just put the valve back together and it worked and drained fine.
If you have a brass valve instead of a plastic one, you can do the same thing. Unscrew the same part that is around the valve stem. Unscrewing that allows you to take the valve stem out and if there is gunk in there it will either clear itself out or you can clear it out.
in2dadark wrote:

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I had the same thing happen on a new WH that had been installed about 4 months ago, so I knew it wasn't a buildup of gunk. Had to be a stuck valve. I bought a brass hose cap, drilled a hole for 1/4" copper tubing, and soldered a 2" piece to the cap. Hose clamped a 6" piece of rubber tubing over that and screwed it onto the WH drain valve. Turned off the water to the tank and opened the drain valve and the pressure relief valve. Applied compressed air to the rubber hose and it popped loose the stuck washer in the drain valve. Drained the tank and replaced the crappy plastic valve with a standard metal one.
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I know the standard advice is to drain a bit out of the tank every year to keep sediment from building up and hopefully prolong the life of the tank. Basically, preventive maintenance.
The risk is every time you open that valve, you get sediment into it, and the valve may leak.
Nobody I know actually does this, including myself. We all seem to get the full lifespan out of a tank (provided the anode is correctly installed.)
The problem you'll have is when replacement time comes, you can't drain the tank through the valve. That thing is heavy when full of water, you don't want to be dragging it out full. <g> I predict a future question to this list, about 10 years from now. "how do I get the tank empty so I can carry it up the basement stairs?"
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You are so, so right. That's going to be the question, ten years from now.
The WH, I've replaced. A couple I took off the drain valve with a BIG hammer, and then the water ran out. One, I drilled several holes with long drill bit. Right through the shell, fiberglas, and through the tank. I figured since it was going into the trash, I dadn't have to worry about damaging the tank.
I think my WH is GE brand. When it leaked (just short of the end of warranty). They authorized the purchase price (about $200) towards the new tank (about $400). I took it, but didn't really feel warm and fuzzy about the matter. I'd have preferred a swap out at no cost to me. Preferred or not, I took their terms. Having hot water is a good thing, I think.
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you cut the lines and push the dead tank over after first opening TP valve.
this gives you the T&P valve to drain and both inputs and output.......
of course normally the tank begins leaking requiring replacement.
in which case shut off water to ntak and open valves. the leak will automatically drain the tank at no extra chargew:)"
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