In the event of a major leak or emergency, do you know how to shut off your water heater? It’s a simple task you probably don’t think about often— until you’re standing in a puddle, noticing a funny smell, or getting ready for a hot water heater replacement.

Whether you have a tankless water heater or a traditional heater, a gas water heater or electric, every homeowner should know how to use this crucial safety feature— before you really need it!

Keep reading to learn how to shut off each of the main types of hot water heaters, and when it’s most important to do so,

How to turn off traditional tank gas or electric water heaters

If your traditional electric or gas hot water heater is leaking or malfunctioning, here’s how to shut it off to avoid damage to your system or home:

  1. For gas water heaters, turn the gas shut-off valve to OFF, both at your unit and at your home’s main gas supply. For electric water heaters, turn the power switch on your unit to OFF, and turn the unit circuit breaker to the OFF position.

    Water Heater

  2. Turn the water supply to your unit clockwise until the valve lever stops. For added safety, turn off the main water valve to your house. (Here’s how to find your home’s main water shut off valve!).
  3.  To avoid water damage to your home, drain your water heater by attaching a standard garden hose to the drain faucet at the bottom of the unit. Place the other end of the hose in a lower location that can’t be damaged by hot rusty water. Then, twist the drain faucet counter-clockwise until water begins to flow from the hose. Watch out— this water may be hot!
  4.  Pull the pressure relief valve so air can enter the tank while it’s draining. You can achieve the same result by turning on any hot water faucet in your home.

Shutting off your traditional tank water heater is a good idea when you’ll be away from your home for an extended period of time. Not only can this prevent a major water leak in the event of a tank malfunction, it protects the inner coating of your hot water heater’s tank.

Well-maintained traditional gas and electric hot water heaters can last 8-12 years, or more, before it’s time for a hot water heater repair or replacement. Turning off your unit while you’ll be away— or anytime your main water supply is off— is a good way to prolong the life of your system.

How to turn off an electric tankless water heater

Unlike a traditional tank water heater, a tankless hot water heater, also referred to as an on-demand hot water heater, offers an endless flow of instant hot water. Instead of storing the heated water in a large tank, which takes a considerable amount of energy to maintain, tankless electric water heaters use heating elements within the unit to heat cold water on demand.

Here’s how to turn off your tankless electric water heater:

  1. In your breaker box, locate the breaker switch that controls your water heater. Move it to the OFF position.
  2. Shut off the main water supply to your home.
  3. At your water heater, locate the water supply valve that’s near or on top of your unit. Rotate that valve handle to the OFF position.

How to turn off a gas tankless water heater

While a tankless electric water heater is easily controlled using your home’s circuit breaker, a gas tankless water heater has a slightly different set of steps:

  1. Turn off the circuit breaker supplying electricity to the control panel of your unit.
  2. Turn off the gas supply valve leading into your unit. For added safety, shut off your home’s main gas supply using the valve located near your gas meter.
  3. Shut off the main water supply to your home.
  4. At your water heater, locate the water supply valve that’s near or on top of your unit. Rotate that valve handle to the OFF position.

When should you shut off your water heater?

You already know it’s important to turn off your water heater the minute you notice a water or gas leak. But when else should you shut off your system? Here’s a list of the most common reasons we recommend homeowners disengage their water heaters:

When you smell gas or hear a hissing sound coming from your gas-powered system

  • If you have an upcoming water heater repair
  • Before a new water heater installation
  • When you’ll be away from your home for more than a few days
  • If your water supply will be off for an extended period of time

Bonus Tip: If you have a newer on-demand water heater or tank system, you may notice a setting on your system’s thermostat that says “LOW” or “VAC.” This setting will lower your water heater to just 50 to 70°, saving you considerable gas or electricity. If you’ll be out of town for an extended period of time, this handy setting, along with these plumbing tips, can help you reduce your energy bill and keep your home safe while you’re away.

Time for a water heater repair? Just Call Burton!

If your water heater just doesn’t heat like it used to, it may be time for a system tune-up or hot water heater replacement. Here at Burton, our team of experienced home plumbers can help you find the right on-demand hot water heater or tank system for your home, family needs, and budget. To schedule your service or request a quote, Just Call Burton!