How To Drain an RV Water Heater

Periodically draining your RV water heater is key to keeping it operating safely and efficiently.

Leaving water in your RV water heater long-term can damage the unit. It can also be dangerous to your health, because stagnant water can develop harmful bacteria and foul odors.

If your tank will be sitting for more than two weeks, it’s best to completely drain it until it’s time to use it again. If you’re a full-time RVer, make sure to add this to your yearly RV maintenance routine.

Tools Needed

  • Wrench or ChannelLock pliers to open the drain plug. Which one will depend on the make of your water heater.
  • Rags to clean up spills and wipe off the drain plug.


  1. Turn off the propane supply to the water heater by closing the main valve on your propane tank.
  2. Turn off any electrical connections going to the water heater by switching off the breaker.
  3. Disconnect the water supply by turning off the city water connection and/or shutting off the valve closest to the water heater. If you’re using a tank water supply, shut off the on-demand water pump.
  4. Relieve pressure in the heater by opening any set of cold and hot water faucets briefly.
  5. Remove the water heater’s drain plug; it’s usually at one of the front bottom corners of the tank. Then open the pressure relief valve on the top of the tank to completely drain the unit. (You don’t need a tool for this.)
  6. When the tank is empty, replace the drain plug and close the pressure relief valve.
  7. When you’re ready to return the water heater to service, make sure your drain plug is in place. Turn the water back on, open any valves you closed and restore power to the unit. Once these steps are complete, turn the propane back on.

Pro tip: Make draining your tank your cue for inspecting it for damage — obvious leaks, severe corrosion or frayed wires at the electrical connections.

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Karuna Eberl
A freelance writer and indie film producer, Karuna Eberl covers the outdoors and nature side of DIY, exploring wildlife, green living, travel and gardening for Family Handyman. She also writes FH’s Eleven Percent column, about dynamic women in the construction workforce. Some of her other credits include the March cover of Readers Digest, National Parks, National Geographic Channel and Atlas Obscura. Karuna and her husband are also on the final stretch of renovating an abandoned house in a near-ghost town in rural Colorado. When they’re not working, you can find them hiking and traveling the backroads, camping in their self-converted van.