Q: How do you back-flush your hot water pipes?

A: Thanks for the back-flush question and an interesting topic. I am aware of back flushing the hot water pipes in a house but I haven’t discussed this for years. This is not for the faint of heart.

This can be effective in removing loose sediment from the hot water pipes but does not normally improve water pressure. This back-flush process involves back-flowing cold water through the hot water pipes in the house and blowing it out through the hot water heater drain at the base of the water heater. It requires the water heater to have a valve shut-off on the cold side water supply pipe of the water heater.

First: Shut off the water heater by either turning the gas thermostat on the side of the heater to “off” and turning off the gas shutoff at the heater for safety, or for an electric heater turn “off” the electric breaker in the electric panel.

Second: Prepare for pressured water to forcefully drain out of the water heater drain at the base of the water heater. This may include connecting a short garden hose to the drain and routing it into a floor drain. Put the drain hose in the floor drain and not on the floor as the water can forcefully spray a long distance and make a mess. Then open the drain at the bottom of the water heater. Confirm that water is draining out of the heater or this whole exercise will not work.

Third: Turn off the cold water inlet valve to the water heater so fresh water is not supplied into the water heater from the cold side.

Fourth: Find the sink faucet furthest from the water heater, perhaps on the second floor of the house. Plug the faucet spout with some sort of a stop to prevent water flowing into the sink by removing the aerator screwed onto the faucet spout. Insert a soft rubber disc or gasket into the aerator to block water flow from the spout. Screw the aerator back onto the faucet with the gasket or rubber disc in the spout. This keeps water from coming out of the spout.

Fifth: Check all your connections to assure no leaks or mishaps.

Sixth: Turn on the cold water at the plugged faucet and let it run for about forty minutes. Make sure you turn on the cold only. This will flow cold water back through the blocked faucet into the hot water pipes and drain out the base of the water heater. This flushes all pipes between the plugged faucet and the water heater.

Seventh: Do the same thing at the laundry connection.

Eighth: Turn the faucet off and remove all plugs and hoses. Return the shut-offs to the original position, fill the water heater full of water, turn it back on or re-light the gas pilot and adjust the thermostat to your desired setting.

Ninth: Clean all aerators in the house as loose sediment and granules can become lodged in the aerators and can block the water flow. You are now finished.

This can be effective in removing loose sediment from the hot water pipes but does not normally improve water pressure. Doing this annually in geographic locations that have high sediment or hard water areas is valuable.

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