Alabama Water Quality

Alabama is classified as an area of the United States that has moderately soft water. The classification for this comes from the United States Environmental Protection Agency. The actual presence of minerals that make water “hard” or “soft” varies from state to state. Indeed, as underwater aquifers and springs alter their course, and environmental conditions change, then the quality and character of water will change also.

The reason it is important to understand the water quality of your area in relationship to cleaning out your water heater is because the minerals located in the local water supply may be the minerals that might clog your water heater.

A complete report showing the entire chemical makeup of Alabama water can be found at It is a download and provides the yearly water quality report for Birmingham and surrounding areas.

Water Heater Functioning

The primary characteristic of water heaters is a great deal of hot water is staying inside the heater at one time. Water is also maintained at a high temperature that tends to create sediments such as iron in the bottom of the heater. This sediment, no matter its real source can eventually find its way into your water or the appliance that is calling for the hot water. Over time, this sediment can also impact the mechanical parts of the water heater and cause them to become less efficient and responsive to your demand for hot water.

Water heater cleaning and flushing is recommended as part of your home maintenance procedure. Experimentation as to how often to clean will have to take place. A general recommendation is once per month depending on the hardness of your local water supply.

Keeping your water heater serviced in this manner will increase its life, enhance its production of hot water, and ultimately reduce the amount of money you are spending on energy consumption.

Cleaning Steps and Process

  1. Find the breaker box if your water heater is an electrical heater or the thermostat if it is supplied by gas. You must find this power source and turn it off before working on the water heater. If your heater is supplied by gas, the thermostat will be located on the outside of the heater where the gas enters the heater. Completely disable the power supply, if the unit is electrical.
  2. Turn off the cold water supply at the top of the water heater. A shut-off valve will be located at the cold water inlet pipe.
  3. Open the hot water faucet in your sink or tub. You will want to do this as it may prevent a vacuum from forming in the lines as you work.
  4. Attach a garden hose to the drain valve which is usually located at the bottom of the unit, on the outside, close to the floor.
  5. Extend the garden hose to a place where the water can drain. This can be a sump hole near the unit, a basement drain, a tub or toilet nearby, or it might be convenient to run the hose outside. Caution: Remember this is hot water. If convenient for you and your family, you might consider allowing the water to cool until it can be handled without concern for heat.
  6. Open the drain valve and allow the water to drain. During this step, you can observe any sediments and the relative clarity of your water by allowing some of the water to flow into a bucket.
  7. If, after the water heater has drained you suspect there may be more sediment buildup in your unit, turn the cold water supply back on and allow the unit to partially refill. Repeat this until the water is clear of sediment.
  8. Close the drain valve and remove the garden hose.
  9. Turn off the hot water faucet in your sink or tub.
  10. Turn the cold water supply back on and let the tank fill up again.
  11. Open the hot water tap you used to drain the possible buildup of air. Opening this will bleed any air present in the lines.
  12. At this point, water should begin to flow back through your tap. When this is accomplished, it is safe to turn the power back on to the unit.
  13. Wait about 20 minutes and then see if you have hot water coming from your taps. Listen for sounds at your water heater to ensure appropriate functioning.


You might find it necessary to add a cleaner to the water. A chemical used is CLR. This product will work to dissolve calcium, lime, and rust. Drain your unit and then turn off the drain valve. Disconnect the cold water inlet pipe and pour CLR down the pipe. Allow the chemical to work for at least five hours. Then, reconnect the cold water inlet pipe, fill up the tank and rinse it by letting the water drain. It is a good idea to flush the unit again with a complete fill-up.

Mechanical and electrical things break down from time to time and eventually they don’t work anymore. Water heaters are mechanical and will therefore, eventually come to the end of their warrantied time of functioning.

However, with careful and constant maintenance you can give the device a chance to work longer and more efficiently.