Water heaters: a less glamorous, but oh-so-essential part of living well. Water heaters, as the name suggests, convert energy to heat water that is to be used for many household applications: showers, dishes, laundry, cooking, and more. Once it is properly heated, the water is carried through your pipes and into your home. It’s something that doesn’t require much thought by the homeowner - which is why many miss signs of trouble.
If your water heater is experiencing more than just troubleshoot problems, it could be time for a replacement. We’ve outlined some common problems attributed to water heater failure so that you know when it’s time to call Stephens for a water heater overhaul.
Unlike some things that get better with age - wine, cheese, a good pair of jeans - extra miles on your water heater do not bode well. The average, functional lifespan of a conventional water heater is anywhere from 6-12 years, or up to 15 if it’s tankless. Your water heater’s serial number should indicate its expiration date. It is a sticker typically placed on the upper portion of the water heater. Within the serial number is a code for the month and year the water heater is due to expire. Check the manufacturer’s website to crack the code and note it somewhere easily accessible for the future.
A general rule of thumb: water heaters over 10 years old should probably be replaced. But, if it has been well-maintained over the years and has yet to spring a leak, you can decide to wait until confirmed leakage to make your move.
Rusty, Muddy, or Sandy Water
Orange-hued water could be a sign that your water heater is rusting from the inside. When rust forms on the hot water compartment of the tank, rust can often get into the water and change its color while also carrying sediment into your home. Your water heater isn’t the only thing that can rust. Galvanized pipes can also rust and cause residue to leak into water passing through.
Muddy or sandy-colored water signals an issue with more sediment buildup. This could be dirt, soil, or deposits from your municipal plumbing system. As this water is not the safest to consume, contact a plumber for an inspection to get to the root of the problem.
Sediment buildup at the bottom of the tank will eventually calcify if left unattended, creating a layer that makes it harder for the appliance to work efficiently. Your water heater will a) take more gas and/or electricity to run and b) most likely have more damage from the buildup loosening and moving within the tank. This scale-like deposit will block the drain valve and prevent water from flowing outward. This means more dollars for unwanted repair and energy costs. Higher repair and energy costs are what often bring the real problem to the forefront for homeowners, and are good gauges to replace your water heater.
Water Temperature and Taste is “Off”
Sensory indicators are the most obvious signs of trouble. Consistently cold or lukewarm water is a noticeable problem. If you see no changes after adjusting your thermostat, it usually means the water heater’s heating mechanism has fizzled out.
A metallic smell or taste in your water is also reason to suspect water heater failure. The taste and smell can be due to corrosion from the inside mixing with the produced heat. These metals aren’t safe to consume, so it’s best to replace your water heater entirely to prevent further ingestion by your loved ones.
The ultimate “terminated” sign is if your system is leaking water. Finding water around your machine or leaks while it’s standing up is usually a clear sign that it needs to be replaced. The leak could be caused by anything from rust and wear to manufacturing defects. You can try to throw a hail mary by patching it up, but most of the time, the leak cannot be repaired. Yes, it is another cost; however, having a functioning, long-lasting water heater in the 2-3 hours it takes to install pays for itself.