Flushing the RV Water Heater Tank
One of the best ways to protect your RV’s water heater, besides a good water filtration system, is to flush it. If you are living in your RV full-time, you should flush your water heater “frequently” according to our water heater manufacturer, Atwood. Since “frequently” is not a defined time period, I chose every three months to flush ours. We follow Atwood’s recommended procedure for flushing the tank and it is fairly simple.
A couple of key steps before beginning are to turn off the power to the heater and run the hot water in the RV until it runs out and the water is cool. Finally, you need to shut off the water source.
We prepared a video that shows the process of flushing the water heater, which is much easier than explaining it here. Performing this maintenance yourself will save you $60-$80 at a maintenance facility and will extend the life of your water heater.
One item not discussed in the video is how to remove an odor coming from the water heater. If you have this problem, the manufacturer recommends the following steps:
- Turn off the water supply and drain the heater tank.
- Reinstall the drain plug.
- Remove the pressure-temperature relief valve.
- Mix 4 parts vinegar and 2 parts water and pour it into the tank with a funnel.
- Cycle the water heater with this solution, letting it run under normal operation 4-5 times.
- Remove the drain plug and drain the solution.
- Flush the water heater to remove any sediment.
- Replace the drain plug and pressure-temperature relief valve.
- Refill the heater tank with fresh water that contains no sulfur.
Additionally, if you store the RV for the winter, flush the tank and leave it drained. There will be about 2 quarts of water remaining, but it should not damage the tank if freezing occurs.
Please note this blog and video were made using an Atwood water heater. Suburban water heaters are also used in RVs. The instructions for flushing these may be a little different. They also contain an anode tube that requires changing at certain intervals. So be sure to check the brand of the water heater in your RV, consult the manual, and double-check the periodic maintenance guidelines.
For more information on maintaining your RV water systems see: