Winter is just around the corner. If you plan on "flying south for the winter" this year, you'll need to make sure that your water heater is properly winterized before you go. Leaving your water heater exposed to the frigid temperatures could result in severe damage. It could also leave your home susceptible to flooding if the water heater ruptures while you're gone. Here are some step-by-step instructions that will help you winterize your water heater.
Turn the Power Off
Before you can properly winterize your water heater, you'll need to shut the power off to the unit. If you have an electric water heater, you'll need to unplug the power cord and then flip the circuit breaker for the unit to the off position. This will ensure that power is completely off to your water heater. If you have a gas water heater, you'll need to turn the gas valve to the off position and extinguish the pilot light.
Disconnect the Water Supply
Your water heater will have a water valve located at the top of the unit. You'll need to turn that valve to the off position. Once you've turned water fill valve to the off position, you'll need to locate the main water supply to the tank. That should be located on the wall behind your water heater. Once you've located that valve, you'll need to turn it off as well. Be sure to tighten it as far as it will go. This will ensure that water doesn't build up in the valve and freeze during the winter.
Drain the Water
Once you have the water turned off to the water heater, you'll need to drain the tank. Attach a garden hose to the drain valve located on the bottom of your water heater. Run the hose out to the yard so that the water can drain to a safe location. If you don't have access to a yard, run the hose to either a bucket or a bathtub. If you use a bucket, be sure to monitor it at all times to ensure that it doesn't overflow. Once the hose is secure, turn the drain valve to the on position and allow the tank to drain. Remove the hose when the tank is no longer draining water. Leave the fill valve open to prevent pressure from building up in the empty tank.
Insulate the Tank
After the water has been drained, the final stage of the winterization will be to insulate the tank. Wrap newspaper or old magazines around your water pipes and secure them with duct tape. This will prevent the pipes from freezing. Finally, wrap an old blanket around the water heater and secure it in place with rope. If you don't have rope, you can use duct tape to secure it in place.
If you're leaving home this winter, be sure to winterize your water heater. The instructions provided above will help protect your water heater from the frigid temperatures. For more tips, contact a water heater repair professional.