- 1Turn off the electricity or gas to the water heater. You will be draining the clean drinking water from it. If there is power to the tank while it's empty, damage to it will be certain. Turn off the circuit breaker for electric types or close the gas valve for natural gas and propane types. Most electric water heaters in residential applications are 208 / 240 volts, and supplied by a double-pole circuit breaker or two fuses rated at 30 amps.
- 5Water heaters are notorious for trapping sediments. The "heavier than water" sediment sinks and collects at the bottom of the tank because hot water is drawn from the top of the tank, rather than the bottom. Typical mineral sediment that has settled in the hot water is usually harmless, but if your heater has an aluminum anode, there may be a lot of jelly-like aluminum corrosion byproduct on the tank bottom. If you have sediment in the drinking water let it stand for a period of time to let it settle to the bottom of container.
- Many people mistakenly believe that the tank is made of glass (or another inert substance). It is not. The inside of the tank will likely be lined with glass to prevent corrosion, since corrosion is the leading cause of water heater failure. There is no danger cooking or consuming water that has been contained in a water heater.
- Always have at least several gallons of drinking water on hand. Increase this amount in anticipation of severe weather. Replace water that has been stored for more than a year or so with clean, fresh water.
- A "tankless" water heater will not provide this source of drinking water. Tankless systems provide heated water from a coiled pipe located in a furnace. Water that is passed through the coiled pipe is rapidly heated and available for immediate use. There is no storage of the heated water - hence the term "tankless".
- Before disaster hits, mark which valve is for the water supply. Run some hot water from any sink. Go back to the hot water tank and feel the two pipes attached to it. The supply line will be the colder one. Somehow mark the valve as "supply". This will be the one to close in an emergency so that contaminated water will not go into the tank as you drain the clean drinking water that is stored in it.
- It is a good idea to flush some water from the bottom of the tank once or twice a year. Sediment can collect on the bottom of the tank. Draining some water under pressure will clean out the sediment.
- Turn off the power supply to the tank first. Even if there is a power failure you must unplug, turn off the circuit breaker, or close the gas valve first.
- Allow the tank to fill before restoring power to the water heater. Open the supply valve and wait for the water to run out of the open hot water faucet.
- Be sure that the water has had time to cool before opening any valves on the water heater!
- Be sure the water inside the water heater is not soft water. It can contain excess sodium (the harder your water supply is, the more sodium is used to soften it), which is not recommended for those with certain health concerns (such as high blood pressure, cardiovascular or kidney disease). If you don't have a water softener...you're good to use the water inside the heater like normal!
Edit Things You'll Need
- Flashlight to find the circuit breaker, plug, and valves if it is dark
- A short water hose to drain the water from the tank. The supply hose for a washing machine is perfect.
- A screwdriver or coin, to operate the drainage valve
- A shallow pan that fits under the valve to collect the water in. If you have a short hose you can use cooking pots, clean bucket, empty plastic gallon jugs, & water bottles.