How to Turn Off Water Heater

How to Turn Off Water Heater

Maintaining a water heater can be intimidating for many people who are not sure how it works and what to do if something goes awry. This step-by-step guide will teach you how to turn off your water heater if there is potentially a gas or water leak. Even if there is a larger issue at hand, it is advisable to learn these steps to stop gas or water before you contact a plumbing professional for inspection. 

How To Turn Off a Water Heater 

If you notice some weird signs coming from your water heater such as overheating or strange noises, be sure to accurately turn off your water heater as soon as possible. Follow the steps below to do so.

Step 1: Disconnect from the Power Source

Before doing anything else, first disconnect the water heater from its power source. In an electrical model, turn off the circuit breaker. For a gas unit, locate the dial near the thermostat and rotate it in the opposite direction.

Step 2: Turn Off Water

Be sure the electricity to the water heater is shut off as described in step 1 before proceeding to step 2. In either an electric or propane tankless water heater, there will be a different style of handle to execute this function. Most handles are circular and need to be rotated to the right to shut off the water source. Do this valve rotation slowly. This function opens up the cold water valve so that it will be the only source available to your faucets, etc. directly from the main water pipes. If you cannot locate the water handle on our water heater, turn off the water supply to your entire house by going to the water valve near the meter for your home, opening the box, and turning the valve to the opposite direction. 

Step 3: Drain Out Water within the Tank

To drain the water out of the tank, locate a place near the bottom of the tank where you can connect a hose. Connect the hose and place the other end into a nearby drain or bathtub and drain out all the hot water in the tank. Reference the water heater manual for additional safety measures for proceeding with this step. Draining the water out will prevent potential leakages from causing further damage before you can contact a plumber for inspection and/or repair. 

Step 4: Label Your Circuit Breaker

When it is time to turn off a certain element within your circuit breaker, it is extremely helpful to have the individual components on the circuit breaker labeled correctly. If this is not done already, you will need to test each component to determine its function and then label it right away. In the event of an emergency where you need to shut off power to your electric water heater, for example, it is vital you know you will be indeed removing power to the appropriate  source so you do not proceed to the next steps and cause harm to yourself or others. 

Step 5: Practice Shutting Off Water Heater

Just like anything in life, if you practice how to do something at least once or twice, you will be much more calm and competent in executing that process when you need to do it in a hurry. This same principle goes for shutting off your water heater. Practice the process in advance of any sort of issue by knowing where and how to shut off power and water and also engage in actually draining your water heater every six (6) months so the act comes naturally in an emergency. 


How to Turn Off a Gas Water Heater

Unlike an electric or propane tankless water heater, on-demand gas water heaters require a different procedure to shut down.

Step 1: Turn Water Heater Valve Off

On the front of your tank there should be a red or black button. Turn the knob to the “off” position. This will stop the unit from heating which means the pilot light should immediately go out and the burner will stop heating. Remove the heat shield to verify there is not a flame still lit by the pilot light unit and no more heat is being emitted. 

Step 2: Turn Off Gas Supply Line

If you hear a hissing sound coming from the heater, the gas line valve needs to be shut off. Do this by locating the gas valve near the gas line by the water heater and turn the lever to a perpendicular position relative to the gas line. If you are unable to locate the gas valve, contact a plumber to help you execute this function. 

Step 3: Shut Down Water Heater

If you will not be present at your home during the winter in colder regions, the water in your tank will need to be drained to prevent freezing. Turn off your water heater and allow 12 hours to elapse before undergoing the drainage process to avoid injury from hot water. 

When draining the tank, place a bucket under the pressure relief valve so water will be caught in there instead of spilling out on the floor. Open the relief valve slightly to allow some steam to be released and then proceed to gently release the lever. Insert a hose to the drain valve at the base of the water heater. Make sure to place the opposite end of the hose in a nearby drain, bathtub, or outside area where the water can flow out to. 

Turn off the cold water valve and let the water out by turning on the hot water faucets. Maintain the drain valve in the open position until all the water has been emptied. Turn off all the open faucets throughout the house. If water still does not drain at this point, there could be mineral deposit blockages that need to be cleared. To clear the deposits, shut off the valve and pull off the hose and remove any blockages. After this is completed, reattach the house and turn on the valve again to determine if water will now drain out properly. 


How to Turn Off an Electric Water Heater

Step 1: Turn Off the Breaker

In order to turn off an electric water heater, first locate the two-pole breaker. It is typically marked and contains 30 or 50 amps. It is best practice to turn off power at the breaker along with shutting down the electric water heater itself. Assemble lock-out lugs on the breaker if it has them. It is a good idea to label the breaker with paper tape and notify others in your household of your procedure to prevent mistakes from occurring. An additional precaution would be to utilize a non-contact voltage tester to ensure there is no heat inside of the cover. This will reduce the likelihood that you will be shocked or burned when replacing the water heater element. 

Step 2: Put a Tag on the Breaker

It is a safety protocol to attach a tag to the breaker while you’re working to prevent anyone from getting hurt. Lock off the area for additional protection. Notify all other people in the home to avoid the dangerous area and even add more precautions to mark off the area. Be absolutely sure you have cut off power to the breaker and heater before working. Place a paper tag over the breaker that reads “Do Not Touch” to prevent people from altering the settings.

Step 3: Cool Off the Water

Before repairs can take place, the water inside of the tank will need to be cooled. This process will need to happen naturally and gradually, rather than attempting to quicken a cool-down by adding cold water. To determine if the water has cooled, turn on a hot water lever on one of the faucets in your home and allow it to run fully until it feels room temperature rather than hot. At this point it will be safe to start repairing the water heater. Upon completion of repairs, turn the hot water back on and wait approximately an hour before turning on faucets and appliances that require hot water. 

Step 4: Turning Off Water

When working on the hot water tank, turn off your cold water supply. There should be a shut-off valve for the water tank on the outlet outside of your house. The location of the water heater tank keeps it from building excessive amounts of internal pressure. Locate the cold water valve, usually on the right if facing the tank, and turn it off. One way to determine cold from hot lines, if the water is running through you can put your hand on the pipe and the one that feels warm is the hot water line and the colder feeling line is the cold water pipe. Additionally, you can run water from a faucet in your home and while looking at the water pipes, the one that vibrates is for hot water and the other is for cold. Tag your cold water line so you remember which one is which. 

Step 5: Drain Hot Water Tank

For some cases of inspection or repair such as testing the thermostat or checking the power supply unit, the water in the tank can remain. For other maintenance or repairs, however, the tank needs to be drained first. Situations that require emptying the water from the tank include, but are not limited to, removing or changing the element or cleaning out sediment build-up inside of the tank. Remember to turn off the heater and allow the stored water to cool first before attempting to drain.



In a simple summary, conduct the following steps in order to turn off your water heater for maintenance or repairs:

  • Turn off water heater
  • Turn off power from circuit breaker
  • Turn off water supply
  • Repair water heater
  • Turn water supply back on
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