What Are the Reasons Behind Water Heater Failure?

plumber working on water heater


When your water heater doesn’t work, you can’t take a relaxing, hot shower or use warm water to clean your dishes.

But what causes your water heater to fail? There are several ways to tell when your water heater is failing before it completely stops producing warm water. Luckily for homeowners, you don’t need to be an expert to understand the signs of water heater failure. And if or when you do notice your water heater isn’t working as it should, call Stephens Plumbing for water heater repair and more.

4 Reasons Behind Water Heater Failure

Inappropriate Fittingperson fixing a broken water heater

Your water heater might be failing because it’s too small. An undersized water heater works harder to produce adequate amounts of warm water. The more it’s being asked to do, the faster it will burn out or break down.

A Defective Thermostat

Sometimes your water heater heats the water at a really high temperature. This usually indicated a problem with the water heater thermostat. Similar to the thermostat that works your home’s heating system, a water heater thermostat that’s malfunctioning won’t set temperatures correctly.

A Water Tank Leak

After many years of use, some of the bolts around gaskets may loosen, leaving enough space for water to leak out. If not addressed, it can lead to other problems with your water heater. You can attempt to tighten bolts, but if it continues leaking, you should call us at (630) 968-0783.

Rusted Parts

If you know anything about water and metal, you know how contact with each other can cause rust. Rusty parts don’t just affect the performance of your water heater; they can cause water discoloration and bad smells.

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3 Water Heater Failure Signs

Heating Process Makes Odd Noises

woman inspecting broken water heaterYour water heater isn’t silent when warming up the water, but it shouldn’t be making crackling or popping sounds. If you hear a crackle or pop when water is heating up, it could indicate that there’s a sizeable sediment build-up in the tank.

Discolored and Odd-Smelling Water

One of the first signs of water heater failure is discolored and/or foul-smelling water. The water going through the water heater should only change temperatures, not smell or color. If you’re noticing this sign, get in touch with our team.

There Is Never Enough Hot Water, the Hot Water Runs Out Too Quickly, or There Is No Hot Water at All

It's pretty easy to tell that your water heater is failing if it can’t produce warm water. But not producing enough or running out of warm water quickly are early signs of failure that homeowners should be aware of. Don’t assume it’s someone in your home hogging all the hot water. You might just need water heater repair or replacement services.

How To Prevent Water Heater Failure?

Drain and Flush the Tank

An annual draining can go a long way in preserving the life of your water heater. Draining and flushing the tank helps prevent sediment buildup that may cause failure. This is something homeowners can do on their own.

1. Turning off the power to the unit

2. Letting the water cool

3. Turn on a hot water faucet in a nearby bathroom

4. Attach a garden hose to the drain valve and place the other end outside or in a sink

5. Wait for water stops flowing out of the tank

6. Once the water stops flowing, turn on the water supply valve located at the top of the tank to help clear out any remaining sediment

7. Once the sediment is cleared, shut off the water supply valve and close the drain valve

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Examine the Anode Rodanode rod and tweezer tool

Every two years, you should check your water heater’s anode rod. This part of the water heater is designed to rust, so the rest of the tank does not. However, the anode rod will eventually deteriorate to a point where it’s no longer serving its purpose. Anode rods typically need to be replaced every five years, but the replacement should be based on a visual inspection, not an assumption.

Test the T&P Valve

Your water heater’s temperature and pressure (T&P) valve helps minimize pressure buildup in the tank. If the pressure reaches dangerous levels, the valve automatically switches on to relieve it. As you can imagine, you would not want a problem with this part of the water heater. An annual test can help you avoid disaster.

Stary by locating it (it’s typically found on top of or the side of the tank). Turn the switch on for about five seconds to ensure it releases water. Be very careful as this water should be extremely hot. If water release is normal, then you should be good to go. If not, a Stephens Plumbing team member can help you find a solution.

Modify the Temperature Setting

Do you know what temperature setting your water heater is at? Temperatures around and over 140° F can be a lot of pressure on your water heater. Dropping your temperature to about a range of 120° F to 135° F can help your unit from failing. It also can help save you some money on your water bill; however, you’ll likely have less warm water.

Conduct a Yearly Inspection

Plumber standing in front of water heaterJust as you would (and should) get other appliances and systems checked annually, your water heater is no different. An inspection can help you save money on more expensive repairs or replacements and helps you avoid unexpected problems. Let the professionals at Stephens Plumbing help you determine the health of your water heater.

Replace After Ten to Twelve Years

Sometimes a repair isn’t possible or worth it. After a decade-plus of use, you should replace your water heater. At that time, you’ll likely notice some of the failure signs listed above. But you don’t have to wait for the unit to completely fail. Our team of plumbing experts can help you understand when your unit needs to be replaced and provide friendly service when the time comes. Call us at (630) 968-0783.

Contact Stephen’s Plumbing for Water Heater Repair

Not having hot water can be a nightmare. As soon as you notice signs of water heater failure or your unit stops working, call Stephens Plumbing at (630) 968-0783. We provide water heater maintenance, repair, replacement, and installation services in areas such as Aurora, Plainfield, Wheaton, Naperville, and Downers Grove. You can also contact us online at your convenience.