Hot water is something you take for granted until you don't have it anymore. If you want to ensure that you and your family have an uninterrupted supply, it's important to maintain your hot water heater. One part of doing this involves draining the tank once a year in order to remove the sediment that tends to build up inside. The process for doing this is fairly simple.

Step 1. The first thing you have to do is turn off your hot water heater. For an electric unit, you should start by turning off the power supply at the electrical panel. Normally, most homes have only one electrical panel. However, homes that have been renovated or modified might have more than one. This is why it's a good idea to label all of the breakers ahead of time. If you have a gas water heater, switch the thermostat to "pilot."

Step 2. Cut off the supply of cold water going to the hot water heater. The valve show be at the top of the tank. Then connect a hose to the drain valve. Position the other end of the hose outside of your home. Try to make sure the water doesn't have to travel upward, or you'll have trouble draining the tank.

Step 3. Prevent a vacuum from forming inside the tank by turning on a hot water faucet in your bathroom or kitchen. Open the drain valve to empty the hot water tank.

Step 4. When the water has stopped raining, turn the cold water back on to finish flushing out the sediment. Close the tank's drain valve and turn off the hot water faucet. Disconnect the garden hose from the drain valve.

Step 5. Allow the tank to completely refill. This won't take long. Turning the power or gas back on before the tank is completely filled could damage your hot water heater.

Step 6. Once the tank has refilled, you can turn the water heater back on. For an electrical hot water heater, turn the power back on at the electrical panel. For a gas hot water heater, switch the gas supply back to full.

Step 7. Allow approximately one hour for the hot water heater to heat the water inside the tank. Then (following the manufacturer's instructions for your particular hot water heater) test the unit's pressure relief valve. It's important that this component be operating properly, since it relieves excess pressure that might build up inside the tank. If it's not working correctly, contact a plumber or water heater installation and repair expert immediately.