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9 Signs Of A Failing Water Heater

Nothing can be more bothersome than bracing yourself for a blissful, warm shower only to be met with an icy cold spray. Suddenly, we find ourselves shivering and questioning the reliability of our water heater.

In this article, we will delve into the depths of water heater issues, discussing the common problems that may arise in both traditional and tankless water heaters, their lifespans, and the factors that may affect their performance.

What Causes a Water Heater to start Failing?

So, what’s behind your trusty water heater’s sudden downfall? One common cause of a failing water heater is a worn-out anode rod. This crucial component is responsible for preventing rust and corrosion inside your heater by sacrificing itself to protect the tank. Over time, the anode rod corrodes, leaving your tank susceptible to rust, which can lead to leaks and ultimately tank failure.

Sediment buildup is another culprit that can compromise the efficiency and longevity of your water heater. As minerals like calcium and magnesium accumulate at the bottom of the tank, they can form a thick layer of sediment that reduces the amount of available hot water and puts additional strain on the heating elements. Ignoring these warning signs can result in a sudden and costly failure.

Common Signs Your Hot Water Heater Is Going to Fail

We can’t emphasize enough the importance of paying attention to the signs that your water heater is on the fritz. Some of the telltale symptoms include inconsistent water temperature, leaks around the heater, unusual noises, and discolored or foul-smelling water.

Regular maintenance, such as flushing the tank to remove sediment and checking the anode rod for corrosion, can go a long way in prolonging the life of your water heater.

Running out of hot water quickly

If you’re constantly finding yourself in the middle of a chilly shower, it might be time to investigate your water heater’s performance. Running out of hot water quickly can be caused by various factors, including the age and size of your hot water tank, a faulty thermostat, or sediment buildup that can impact the water pressure and heating efficiency.

To determine the root cause, it’s essential to check the water pressure, inspect the thermostat settings, and examine the tank for any signs of corrosion or sediment buildup.

The first step in addressing the issue of running out of hot water quickly is to assess the capacity of your water heater. If you have a growing family or have increased your hot water usage, it might be time to consider upgrading to a larger hot water tank or a new tankless water heater.

water heater and shower

Tankless water heaters provide an endless supply of hot water, making them a popular choice for those who desire consistent water temperature and pressure.

Ensure that your thermostat settings are accurate and consider having a professional plumber inspect your water heater for any sediment buildup or malfunctioning components. By taking the time to evaluate and maintain your water heater, you can ensure a reliable and efficient hot water supply for your household.

Strange noises coming from the water heater

Odd sounds from your water heater shouldn’t be ignored, as they often indicate issues like sediment buildup, heating element failure, or even potential leaks that can lead to costly repairs or replacements.

Strange noises, such as rumbling, popping, or hissing, can be caused by a variety of factors, including water pressure fluctuations, loose heating elements, or issues with the internal components of your system. When you hear these sounds, it’s essential to act quickly and contact a professional plumber to diagnose and address the problem before it escalates and becomes a more expensive issue to resolve.

In some cases, the cause of these strange noises can be traced back to sediment buildup in the bottom of the tank, which can lead to reduced efficiency, increased energy consumption, and damage to the heating elements and pipes. Hard water can accelerate this buildup, as it contains minerals that tend to accumulate over time.

A thorough inspection and flushing of your water heater by a skilled plumber can help to remove these sediments and restore your system to optimal performance.

Regular maintenance, such as annual flushing and inspection of the tank, can help to prevent these issues from arising in the first place, ensuring that your water heater remains in peak condition and providing you with a reliable supply of hot water. So, when you hear any odd sounds coming from your water heater, don’t hesitate to reach out to the experts for assistance and safeguard the longevity of your system.

Water leaking from the heating tank

When you notice a leak from your heating tank, it’s crucial to act fast and address the issue before it turns into a costly disaster. Water leaking from a heating tank is a sign of a failing water heater, and if left unattended, it can lead to significant property damage and even potential health hazards.

A leaking water heater tank can result from various factors, such as corrosion, loose connections, or a damaged pressure relief valve. As part of our commitment to keeping you informed and safe, we’ve compiled a list of critical steps to take when you encounter a leaking water heater tank:

– Turn off the power supply: If your water heater is electric, switch off the circuit breaker; if it’s gas-powered, turn off the gas valve.
– Shut off the water supply: Locate the cold water shut-off valve near your water heater and turn it clockwise to stop the water flow.
– Call professional plumbers: Reach out to experienced professionals who can assess the situation, diagnose the cause of the leak, and recommend the best course of action, whether it’s repair or replacement.

Discolored or cloudy water coming from faucets

You know what they say, a picture is worth a thousand words, and discolored or cloudy water coming from your faucets can certainly paint an alarming image of potential water heater issues. When you notice that the water coming out of your taps has taken on an unappealing hue, it’s important not to ignore it.

Discolored water can be a sign of sediment or rust buildup within your water heater, which may eventually lead to a complete failure of the unit. Rusty water, in particular, is a clear indication of corrosion within the tank, and this can eventually lead to leaks and other serious plumbing problems. To ensure the safety and efficiency of your water heater, it’s crucial to address discolored water issues as soon as they arise.

water heater corrosion

In order to properly diagnose and resolve the issue, it’s best to contact a licensed plumber who has experience with water heaters. A professional plumber will be able to assess whether the problem is indeed stemming from your water heater or if it’s originating elsewhere within your plumbing system.

If the issue is related to your water heater, the plumber may recommend a thorough cleaning or even a replacement of the unit, depending on the severity of the problem. By taking swift action and enlisting the help of a professional, you can prevent further damage to your plumbing system and ensure that your water heater operates efficiently for as long as possible. 

The Hot Water Smells “Off”

If the hot water coming from your faucets has a strange odor, don’t brush it off – it could indicate a problem with your water heater that requires attention. Unusual smells are one of the common signs of a failing hot water heater, and it’s essential to address the issue promptly to avoid further damage to your water supply or even a complete breakdown of the unit.

The odor could be caused by a variety of factors, such as a buildup of bacteria or sediment in the tank, a malfunctioning pilot light or heating element, or issues with the water supply itself.

To troubleshoot the smell, start by checking the water supply for any signs of contamination or irregularities. If the water supply is clear, the issue likely lies within the hot water heater. Sediment and mineral buildup can create an environment for bacteria to thrive, producing a foul odor.

ConsequenceDescriptionCost
Health issuesBacteria in the water supply can cause illnessMedical bills
Tank failureCorrosion can cause leaks or even a tank burstReplacement cost
InefficiencySediment buildup reduces efficiency and raises utility billsHigher utility bills

Regular maintenance, such as flushing the tank and inspecting the pilot light and heating elements, can help prevent these issues and extend the lifespan of your water heater. If you’re unsure how to perform these tasks or if the problem persists despite your efforts, it’s best to consult a professional plumber for assistance.

Inconsistent water temperature when taking a shower

Feeling like you’re constantly battling with your shower’s temperature control, swinging between scalding hot and icy cold, can be a frustrating experience – and it could indicate an issue with your water heater.

When your water heater is struggling to maintain a consistent temperature, it’s often a sign that it’s nearing the end of its lifespan, or at the very least, it requires some maintenance or repairs. The cause of this could be a worn-out or malfunctioning heating element, a faulty thermostat, or even an issue with the gas supply (for gas water heaters).

To try and pinpoint the problem, consider these three steps:

1. Check for water leaks around the heater or the pipes connecting to it. Water leaks can reduce the overall water pressure, affecting the temperature consistency in your shower.
2. Listen for any unusual sounds coming from the water heater. Banging, hissing, or gurgling sounds could indicate sediment buildup, which insulates the heating element and prevents it from effectively heating the water.
3. Test the temperature and pressure relief (TPR) valve. If it’s faulty or leaking, it can cause fluctuations in water temperature.

Remember, it’s crucial to address these issues as soon as they arise, not only to ensure you have a consistent, comfortable shower experience but also to prevent potential damage to your water heater and avoid costly repairs or replacements. Don’t hesitate to consult a professional plumber for guidance or assistance, as they can help diagnose and fix the problem quickly and efficiently. 

Lower water pressure

Struggling with a weak, trickling shower stream can be incredibly frustrating, and it’s often a telltale sign that there’s an issue with your water heater.

Lower water pressure, though not always directly related to the water heater, can be caused by sediment buildup within the heater’s tank. Over time, these deposits harden and restrict the flow of water, causing it to become weaker. This is especially true if you live in an area with hard water, which contains minerals that accumulate faster and cause more significant buildup.

Regular maintenance, such as flushing your water heater annually, can help prevent sediment buildup and extend the life of your unit, ensuring that you and your family can continue to enjoy strong, soothing showers.

Another common reason for lower water pressure is a damaged or clogged pressure relief valve. This crucial component helps regulate the pressure inside your water heater, ensuring that it stays within safe limits.

If the valve becomes clogged or damaged, it can restrict water flow, leading to a noticeable decrease in water pressure. In some cases, a faulty pressure relief valve can even cause your water heater to overheat or burst, so it’s essential to address this issue promptly.

Leaking or Faulty Pressure Relief Valve

Don’t ignore a leaking or faulty pressure relief valve; it’s a critical component of your water heater that ensures safe operation and prevents dangerous pressure buildup.

The pressure relief valve, also known as the temperature and pressure (T&P) relief valve, is designed to open and release excess pressure from the tank when the pressure or temperature exceeds safe levels, protecting your home from potential hazards like explosions.

If your pressure relief valve is leaking or not functioning correctly, it’s essential to address the issue immediately to avoid any dangerous consequences.

Here are four critical signs that may indicate a problem with your pressure relief valve:

1. Persistent dripping or leaking: If you notice water dripping from the relief valve or pooling around the base of your water heater, this could be a sign that your valve is not sealing properly, or it may be relieving excess pressure from the tank. Either way, it’s essential to have a professional plumber inspect the issue and determine the proper course of action.
2. Inability to open the valve: If you attempt to test your pressure relief valve by manually opening it and the valve doesn’t move, it could be stuck or corroded. This is a severe issue, as a non-functional valve cannot relieve excess pressure, posing a safety risk.
3. No water discharge during testing: When testing the pressure relief valve, there should be a brief discharge of water when the valve is opened. If no water is released, it could indicate a blocked or faulty valve that requires immediate attention.
4. Rust or corrosion on the valve: Visible rust or corrosion on the exterior of the valve could be a sign of internal damage or compromised integrity, making it essential to have the valve inspected and replaced if necessary.

By paying attention to these signs and taking prompt action, you’ll be safeguarding your home and ensuring the reliable operation of your water heater.

Exposure To Carbon Monoxide

Moving on from leaks and faulty pressure relief valves, another critical concern we need to address is the potential exposure to carbon monoxide. This hazardous gas is not only difficult to detect but also poses a significant threat to the health and safety of everyone in the household.

Carbon monoxide is produced when fuel-burning appliances, such as gas water heaters, malfunction or are poorly maintained. To ensure the well-being of our family, it’s crucial to be aware of the warning signs of a failing water heater that could lead to carbon monoxide exposure. Common symptoms include frequent headaches, dizziness, nausea, and fatigue, which may worsen when you’re at home and improve when you’re away.

If you suspect a carbon monoxide leak, it’s vital to take immediate action by turning off the appliance, ventilating the area, and contacting a professional to inspect and fix the issue. Additionally, installing carbon monoxide detectors in your home can provide an extra layer of protection and peace of mind.

Preventing Hot Water Heater Failure

To keep your trusty hot water system running smoothly, it’s essential to stay ahead of potential issues and maintain it regularly. By taking preventative measures, you can extend the lifespan of your water heater and avoid the inconvenience of unexpected breakdowns.

Proper maintenance also prevents potential hazards such as gas leaks or exposure to carbon monoxide. It’s crucial to get to know your water heater and address any signs of trouble before they escalate into more significant problems.

Here are five essential steps to help you prevent hot water heater failure:

Inspect your water heater regularly: Make it a habit to check your water heater for any signs of leaks, rust, or corrosion. Pay close attention to the temperature and pressure relief (TPR) valve, as this is a common source of leaks.
Flush the tank at least once a year: Sediment buildup can lead to multiple issues, including loss of efficiency and potential damage to the tank. Flushing the tank regularly helps eliminate sediment and keep your water heater running efficiently.
Check the anode rod: The anode rod is designed to corrode in place of your water heater’s tank. Inspect it every two to three years and replace it if it’s worn or corroded.
Adjust the thermostat: Keep your water heater’s thermostat set at a safe and energy-efficient temperature, typically between 120°F and 140°F. This helps prevent scalding accidents and saves energy.
Schedule regular professional maintenance: While DIY maintenance is essential, it’s also wise to have a professional plumber inspect and service your water heater at least once a year. They can spot potential issues and ensure everything is running safely and efficiently.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, we’ve seen that a failing water heater can be a real pain in the neck. By understanding the common issues and signs of failure, we’re better equipped to tackle any problems head on and avoid the dreaded cold shower.

We can’t emphasize enough the importance of regular maintenance and vigilance in spotting potential issues. Get in touch with True Plumbing for help and advice with water heater repairs in Atlanta.