Whether you need to perform maintenance and repairs, or it's time to buy a new water heater altogether, you'll need to know how to turn off a hot water heater.
Turning off a water heater isn't difficult, but the process is different depending on whether it's fueled by gas or electricity. This article will give you step-by-step directions on how to turn off both types of water heaters.
How to Turn Off an Electric Water Heater
Turning off the power to your electric water heater is very simple.
Step One: Shut Off the Breaker
Electric water heaters are hard-wired, so to turn them off all you need to do is switch the circuit breaker to the "off" position in your electrical panel.
Step Two: Communicate the Breaker is Off
We highly recommend, placing a note over the breaker so someone doesn't inadvertently turn it back on while you're working, as this can be extremely dangerous.
Some point-of-use electric water heaters plug into a standard outlet. They may or may not have an on/off switch, but regardless you should unplug it from the outlet if you want to turn it off for repairs.
How to Turn Off a Gas Water Heater
Turning off a gas water heater can be done in two steps:
Step 1: Turn Off the Gas Control Valve
On the front of the tank, near the bottom is a gas control valve.
It's important to note that gas water heaters use different types of gas control valves, so it's a good idea to look on the side of your water heater for a sticker which provides directions on how to turn off your specific heater.
Once you've located your gas control valve, turn the dial to the "Off" position. This will shut down the pilot and prevent the burner from igniting.
Step 2: Turn Off the Gas Line Valve
Now, follow the gas supply line from your heater until you find the shut-off valve. All gas water heaters are required to have an easy-to-find shut-off valve located on the incoming gas line.
Turn the gas valve a ¼ turn, until the lever is in a perpendicular position in comparison to the gas line. This prevents the flow of gas to your water heater.
When Should You Turn Off a Water Heater?
There are a number of reasons you may need to turn off your water heater. Here are the most common ones:
Unusual Operation - If your water heater is doing anything out of the ordinary, such as making odd sounds, overheating, or tripping the breaker, then you should turn off your water heater until you can diagnose and repair the problem. We recommend calling a professional.
Routine Maintenance - If you need to drain or flush your tank, or perform other routine maintenance, you'll want to turn off your water heater. This is especially important with electric heaters since they use heating elements to heat the water. Failure to shut off the power will cause the elements to dry-fire and damage the element.
Repairs - Any time you're working on your water heater you should shut down your water heater's power. Electric water heaters typically run off a 30amp breaker with 240 volts of electricity. You don't want to take any chances.
Replace Water Heater - When your old water heater needs to be replaced, you'll need to turn off the power so you can remove the old heater and install the one.
Water Heater Leak - If your water heater is leaking, the problem could be as simple as a valve, or as serious as the tank. Either way you'll want to turn off your water heater and shut off the water until the leak is repaired.
Out-of-Town - Some homeowners like to turn off their water heater while they're on vacation. Although the idea is good, it can put additional strain on the heater. It's typically a better practice to turn it to "VAC" (vacation) mode if available. If not, you can simply turn it down to 50° or 60°F. Just remember to turn it back up when you get home!