If you suspect your water heater is nearing the end of its useful life, then you’re reading the right blog post. We’ll help you understand the key signs that indicate you’ll need to take action to address your water heater’s potential failure.
1. Past Its Anticipated Useful Life
The average tanked water heater can last anywhere from 10 to 15 years with regular maintenance and ongoing repairs (for example, replacement of the sacrificial anode rod). If your unit is older, you may begin to wonder how much longer it will continue to function efficiently and safely. The age of your water heater factors in when you notice some of the other symptoms discussed below.
2. Inconsistent Hot Water
While this consideration can sound vague, it’s easily recognizable to those who have a water heater with this issue. This symptom can include the following: it takes a while for the water to heat up, the temperature fluctuates if more than one plumbing appliance is in use and/or the hot water runs out very quickly. Hot water that isn’t available quickly or consistently is one of the noticeable signs your water heater is failing.
3. Higher-than-Normal Energy Bills
At first, many homeowners may think another culprit is responsible for the higher energy bills. But when the water heater is responsible, this is because the unit is running inefficiently and takes longer to heat the water up. Poor performance usually happens when particles accumulate in the water heater over the years in use. Gravity causes the sediment to settle on the tank floor, interfering with the heating element and straining the appliance. The result is higher energy bills and a longer time before hot water is available.
4. Loud Banging Noises
Naturally occurring sediment will build up in the bottom of the tank over the years. As the heating element at the bottom of the tank warms the water, the sediment rises and bangs against the tank. This can interfere with the unit’s efficiency at heating water; more importantly, these minerals erode at the sacrificial anode rod and eventually the walls of the tank.
Often, if the noises are the only symptom present, that means it’s past time to flush your water heater (an annual maintenance task that is easily overlooked). But when combined with other factors, such as the water heater’s age and poor performance, take that as a sign you should consider a replacement before the appliance fails.
5. Leaking Tank & Presence of Rust
A leaking tank indicates the presence of corrosion. In some cases, if the leak is slow and small enough, you may notice rust before you discover the leak. Either way, both signs tell you that you need a water heater replacement.
Iron, limestone and other particles that naturally occur in the water supply eat away at the metal components of your water heater tank over time. At first, the sacrificial anode rod prevents the corrosive minerals from corroding the steel tank. If the rod isn’t replaced every three to five years, the particles will erode the tank’s walls, eventually causing leaks.
Another consideration is that pressure builds within the tank as the water heats up before being released via the temperature and pressure relief valve. However, the presence of a leak means in rare, worst-case scenarios, the pressure can cause the safety components to fail, leading to a burst water heater that can leak and flood the home with scalding water.
6. Discolored or Funny-Smelling Water
If your water smells rotten or vaguely sulfuric or it’s a dirty, reddish brown color, then there’s likely rust present in your water heater. You need to immediately check the condition of your anode rod and see if the corrosion has spread to the tank’s walls. Unfortunately, if there’s noticeable discoloration or a metallic taste, then it’s highly probable you need to replace your water heater.
Professional Water Heater Inspections, Repairs and Replacements
When your hot water heater begins to exhibit one or more of the signs listed above, it’s time to call a professional. In some cases, it may be enough for a professional plumber to change the sacrificial anode rod before the appliance fails. In other situations, the solution is a water heater replacement. Reach out to Northern Virginia plumbing experts at Atlas Home Services today.