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Recently, my water heater started leaking from the top edges. I can see rust lined up all along the outer rim on the top, and water is very slowly trickling out. I've made an appointment with a local water heater company to come repair it, but it will be three days before they can come. So now, I'm trying to shut down the water heater safely.

Since it's an electric heater, I've turned off the electricity on the breaker panel, and I've shut off the cold water valve on the top of the heater. I heard that I also need to drain the heater through the outlet near the bottom of the heater.

Questions:
1. Is draining the heater through the bottom outlet necessary?
2. If I do drain the heater via the bottom outlet, will the water be scalding hot?
3. Why can't I drain the heater via my bathroom faucet? Will turning on the hot water in the bathroom cause any issues (besides not getting hot water of course)?

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To drain it, you need gravity working with you; you don't have water pressure because you've turned off the incoming cold water.

Your sink us attached to the top of the water heater, and in most cases is located even higher up. You can't drain that way unless you turn the house upside down.

So instead you open a hot water tap somewhere to let air into the system, then open the valve at the bottom of the tank to drain its contents. You'll presumably want a hose and/or buckets to move that drained water somewhere appropriate -- route it into a sump, perhaps.

  • Thanks @keshlam. It's not a lot of work, but is draining it really necessary? Can I just let it sit (with water inside) until the tech gets here and diagnose the problem? – JHN Sep 18 '15 at 21:47
  • If the tech told you to drain it, drain it -- otherwise you'll be paying him to wait for it to drain. Otherwise, just turn off the incoming water so it doesn't continue to soak the surroundings or burst a larger hole. If this heater is more than seven years old, replacing it entirely may make more sense than trying to patch it. – keshlam Sep 18 '15 at 21:55
  • I see. I'm going to see if I can drain it safely now. The water coming out from the bottom will be hot, right? (I shut off the electricity not too long ago.) – JHN Sep 18 '15 at 22:06
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    Yes, the water will be hot, if the tank is decently insulated and hasn't had time to cool down. – keshlam Sep 18 '15 at 22:08

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