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How to drain the hot water pipes?
 

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April
Joined: 13 Dec 2003
Posts: 6233
Location: Westchester/NYC

3/4/18 6:16 AM

How to drain the hot water pipes?

As a result of the noríeaster, the power at my house is out. The estimated restoration time is Monday according to the power company.

Last nightís temperature was above freezing. But tonight will will be below freezing.

Iíve only drained the cold water side of the pipes. But a couple people at the shelter were debating what to do about the hot water side of the pipes.

The hot water tank itself isnít too much a concern. But what about the pipes? Itís not as simple as leaving the faucet on for a few minutes, as the hot water tank will keep feeding water into the pipes...

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daddy-o
Joined: 12 Apr 2004
Posts: 3014
Location: Springfield

3/4/18 6:53 AM

It all works on gravity (as you know.) All of my hot water tanks have always been in the basement.

The cold water pushes the hot water through the system.

Inlet valve:
On top of the HW tank is a valve (petcock valve) that feeds cold water to the tank.

A feature of household petcocks is the handle indicates position, open/closed.
Parallel is open
Perpendicular is closed
--It allows you to see if it is open or closed from across the room.

Close the inlet valve.
Drain the tank.
While it is draining open all of the faucets in the house (to break the vacuum.)
----------------------
Details
You don't need to open every valve in the house but as household chores go it's a pretty easy. When you turn the water back on, all the spitting faucets will be quiet by the time you get to them.

The argument can be made that the interior won't drop below freezing.
The argument can also be made that it's just a good idea to know how to
do this. Water heaters rust through, develop leaks, pressurize, erupt, you see where this is going.

If you have an ice maker it can be a problem while draining cold water. It's mainly a problem for doing work on copper pipes. Totally FYI territory: The feed line of the ice maker may slowly drip. Depending on house layout, under the fridge, in the basement for example, if you are soldering in a new fixture, the boiling of that dripping dripping water will keep the pipe from heating up enough to properly melt the solder. It can drive an amateur plumber crazy.

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April
Joined: 13 Dec 2003
Posts: 6233
Location: Westchester/NYC

3/4/18 11:42 PM

"The argument can be made that the interior won't drop below freezing. "

If that's true, no one would ever heard of horror stories of frozen pipes! So I conclude that's not true.

A hot water tank holds quite a lot of water. Draining the whole tank will take a long while!

Besides, I'd prefer to just drain the pipes, not the tank. For just a few days, there's sufficient insulation to keep the hot water IN THE TANK from freezing.

But the pipes is a different matter

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greglepore
Joined: 10 Jan 2004
Posts: 1617
Location: SE Pa, USA

3/5/18 8:27 AM

If you're there, you can let the faucets just dribble.
If not, and there's no drain valve immediately above the tank (and an isolation valve below that-and I've never seen such a thing), you need to close inlet and drain tank.
Those are the choices. No others, short of cutting a pipe.
Pipes in walls seldom freeze. Pipes in uninsulated spaces often do.

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walter
Joined: 11 Jan 2004
Posts: 4294
Location: metro-motown-area

3/5/18 9:10 AM

unless you expect to have exterior temps @ 20F or lower, i'd say your freeze risk is minimal. and even then, pipes in exterior walls and uninsulated spaces have the greatest risk of freezing.

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daddy-o
Joined: 12 Apr 2004
Posts: 3014
Location: Springfield

3/5/18 10:02 AM

If you're still on the drain-the-hot-water path how about closing the cold water inlet, draining a gallon or two, and letting the water in the hot water service flow back into the tank?

Take a look at the quality of the water when you drain it.

It is rusty?

Checking for rust like that is annual maintenance. There are a few reasons to do it. But you know that.

Place a saucer with some water on your kitchen counter. If it doesn't freeze, open some windows, it's not cold enough. 🎵✨ (rimshot)

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April
Joined: 13 Dec 2003
Posts: 6233
Location: Westchester/NYC

3/5/18 11:50 AM


quote:
If you're still on the drain-the-hot-water path how about closing the cold water inlet, draining a gallon or two, and letting the water in the hot water service flow back into the tank?


That's an excellent idea. Unfortunately doesn't apply to my case. My hot water tank is actually on the upper level of a split level house. :(

I'll take a look to see if there's an isolation valve on the tank.

The next 2 days' temperature are not cold enough to worry about (mid-to-upper 20's). But there's another storm coming on Wednesday. I'm keeping my fingers crossed I'll get power back on before that.

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Sparky
Joined: 08 Dec 2003
Posts: 16244
Location: Portland, OR

3/5/18 12:18 PM

If you turn off the main supply, then open the lowest faucet and open the highest faucet it will drain.

Usually the lowest is an outside hose bib. And sometime the highest is the laundry pair. My house has a low outlet in the crawl for this purpose. When I have drained this place, I drain via the outside hose bibs, then hand a 5 gallon bucket on the crawl drain and get the last bit. To avoid having to take a full 5 gallon bucket out of the crawl. ;) The hose bibs are higher than said drains.

If you have a crawl and intend going down there, be mindful of spiders and rodent droppings. Not to mention if your access is in a bedroom closet like ours, on exit have a drop cloth or old towel so you don't transplant dirt and droppings onto the rug. And try not to think of Hantavirus too much.


Last edited by Sparky on 3/6/18 11:37 AM; edited 1 time in total

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Matthew Currie
Joined: 11 Jan 2004
Posts: 756
Location: Vermont

3/5/18 2:28 PM

My procedure may vary a bit because I have an actual basement. In my case, to drain the hot water lines, I shut off the supply to the water heater, and (always, must do!) the power to the water heater. I then simply open up the taps and open the water heater drain, which dumps down a cellar drain. One need not drain the entire system, but there's no easy way to be sure when the pipes are empty above the tank, so I just let it all run out. Open all the hot water taps in the house above, so no water stays in the branches. Same can be done with the cold water, if you have a valve at the lowest point. A proper in-line valve will have a little cap which, when removed, will allow draining everything upstream.

Make sure that when you remove that cap you don't mislay it! They are not all the same size. Put a little plastic bag or something on the pipe next to the valve, and get in the habit of always putting the cap in that.

By the way, also, if you have frost-free outside faucets, make very sure you remove any hoses that are attached. They resist freezing by having their valve stems on the inside of the wall, but if you leave a hose, they won't drain properly, and it's an absolute pisser to replace the part that goes through the wall if it freezes!

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Sparky
Joined: 08 Dec 2003
Posts: 16244
Location: Portland, OR

3/5/18 7:23 PM

Is your water heater Gas or Elec? If it is not full, breaker needs to be off. If gas, make sure gas off is or pilot only setting on the control valve on the unit. Make sure the pilot is lit after filling.

Don't leave it drained for too long if electric. Older heating elements better to keep covered with H2O.

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KerryIrons
Joined: 12 Jan 2004
Posts: 2892
Location: Midland, MI

3/6/18 10:37 AM

Draining

If you open the highest taps in the house and the lowest taps in the house, nearly everything except the hot water heater will empty. Even the lines that don't completely drain will be mostly freeze protected because there will be room to any frozen sections to expand into open pipes. In most cases should not need to drain the water heater. No way will the tank freeze in any realistic weather scenario.

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