Quickly available hot water is a modern miracle in the context of history. For millennia, the only way to heat water for bathing, washing, cooking, or other needs was to place it in a pot or other container over a fire or some other heat source.
The ease of hot water can often be taken for granted nowadays. However, you’ll hold the luxury in much higher regard as soon as you wake up to a cold morning, hop in the shower, and get pelted with water that might as well be icicles.
You can wait for your water heater to die of old age before you get a new hot water heater installation. However, water heaters sometimes fail before the end of their natural lifespan, making you choose between hot water heater repairs or replacement. Knowing the signs of failure can sometimes prevent a crisis and/or save you money.
What Causes a Hot Water Heater to Fail?
Typically, a hot water heater has a fairly long lifespan, about 10-15 years on average. Like any other instrument with working parts, though, things can break down or malfunction. A number of things can go wrong to make a hot water heater fail.
Over time, the anode rods in them get used up. Tanks made of metal, which describes most tanks, can corrode or leak. Heating elements that break or cease working can also lead to failure. Unless the water heater seems to be reaching the end of its lifespan, you’ll probably opt for repairs over replacement. Still, the older the unit gets, the more repairs you’ll have done over time.
Signs a Hot Water Heater Is Going to Fail
Knowing indicators of a hot water heater failure can save you a lot of hassle, discomfort, and inconvenience. However, it can also save you money since you might be able to address a smaller problem before it can lead to a bigger, more expensive problem.
- An old unit. Know the age of your unit. It probably has a label with the installation date on it, but if it doesn’t, you can go online with the brand name and the unit’s serial number to get that information. If your unit is near the end of its expected lifespan, you’ll likely need to replace it relatively soon, even if it’s currently running well. It can be a tough decision to replace an older unit when it’s still working. Still, understanding that newer units are much more energy-efficient, meaning you’ll save money on utility bills, might help make that decision easier.
- Leaking water from the tank. This signals that the water heater may be failing. Water dripping from the tank, pooling beneath the unit, and dripping from pipes are signs to watch for when monitoring this situation. Sometimes the fix is easy; valves not fully closed or loose connections usually just require tightening or replacing. When the tank itself is leaking, though, it’s probably time for a new water heater.
- Lower water pressure or fluctuating water temperatures. Suppose you’ve ever been in a shower where the water temperature keeps going back and forth between cold, lukewarm, and scalding. In that case, you were likely experiencing the results of a failing water heater. As with a leak, the fix is sometimes relatively easy, like replacing a thermostat. However, the heating elements could be broken or failing, and that’s a bigger and more serious problem. Sediment buildup, which occurs more rapidly with hard water than soft water, can create clogs resulting in low water pressure. If you’re experiencing this, call for servicing; although low water pressure is a sign of a failing water heater, professional attention can sometimes prevent that from occurring, saving you money and trouble in the process.
- Hot water running out too quickly. Everyone knows that taking your sweet time in the shower can use up all the hot water, much to the aggravation of others needing to take a shower. However, if hot water is running out faster than usual and this keeps occurring, there is probably a sediment problem. When sediment settles in a hot water heater and starts to build up, there is less room for hot water to be stored. Also, the deposit can clog or corrode valves, resulting in a need for a hot water heater replacement. Routine inspection and maintenance can flush sediments out, but letting it go too long can result in a “too late” situation and the need for replacement.
- Unusual sounds from the water heater. Strange sounds coming from a hot water heater might mean a heating element is failing, which is a big deal. At the same time, they could indicate something else, such as clogs in the system from sediments and mineral deposits, poor water flow, fluctuating water pressure, or loose valves and connections. When you hear odd noises from the hot water heater, call a professional plumber to flush out the system, inspect it, and recommend what, if anything, to do next.
- Discolored water from faucets. Hot water tanks have a lining that slows corrosion, but those linings don’t last forever, and when they get thin, corrosion and rust can form quickly. That can lead to water coming out looking rusty or murky. The water might not be harmful to you, but it will taste bad, and it can discolor appliances and cause damage to their parts. Flushing the system out may do the trick, but you might have to replace the hot water heater.
Professional Installation, Maintenance, and Repairs
Four Seasons Plumbing is a fully licensed and insured plumbing company serving the Asheville region, and all our plumbers undergo extensive training and background checks so that you can feel confident and safe about letting us into your home.
With our maintenance plans and repair services, we’ll help you get the most out of your hot water heater. And when it’s time for a new one, we’ll install a modern, energy-efficient unit that will serve you well for years.
Need an installation, inspection, or repair? Contact us today!