5 Signs Your Water Heater is About to Fail
We know a lot of people here in Southwest Florida are still getting estimates for damage their homes got during Hurricane Irma. And a lot of plumbing companies out there are taking advantage, and offering “free” inspections, or low-cost inspections to tell you about damage you may not even know about. Some of these are legitimate inspections and legitimate companies. . . but unfortunately some of them are not. We’ve had several customers ask us to come and do some inspecting to give them a second opinion, and we’ve become privy to some unscrupulous practices by these other companies.
One of the main scams that is showing up, is plumbing companies telling customers that their water heater is about to fail. If you are not familiar with your water heater, you may just believe that assessment, and it could cost you thousands of dollars. Before you spend that money, here are some things you can check out on your own, or you can have us come out and give you a second opinion, and our promise is not to use scare tactics and to tell you the truth about your equipment.
If you decide to check it out yourself, here are some simple tips to find out if your water heater is actually failing and needs replacing:
- How old is it? It is crucial to know how old your water heater is. If you don’t know the age of your water heater, here’s how to find out. You can look at the serial number on the manufacturer’s sticker on the upper portion of the water heater. The serial number contains the date that the water heater was manufactured. The serial number will have a date code such as “F051052638,” F is for the month and F is the sixth letter in the alphabet, so it represents the sixth month, June. Next, the first two digits of the serial number are 05, which represents the year, 2005. So this water heater was made in June 2005. Each manufacturer has a similar date code, and they can vary; check the manufacturer’s website to learn more. Most water heaters last between 10 and 15 years. Generally, most water heaters that are more than 10 years old should be considered for replacement.
- You get no hot water or you notice the water is not as hot for as long. Many things can cause a lack of hot water, so first let’s see what can be ruled out. Check first to see if your pilot light is out or the circuit breaker has tripped. Two, see if maybe someone adjusted the thermostat, anything lower than 120 degrees could provide warm but not hot water. If you look at it and notice it is lower, then adjust your thermostat to make sure the temperature is set between 120 to 140 degrees. Warm water but not hot water can be an indication of your heating element burning out, so double-check that. If your tank hasn’t been flushed in a long time, it could be simple mineral build up in the tank. The more build-up at the bottom of the tank, the harder it is to heat the water and the less room there is for hot water overall. If there is a build up, then you need to flush your tank. But finally, if you looked into all of these things and everything looks normal, but you are still not getting really hot water, then it’s a good indication that your water heater is starting to fail.
- Your water is no longer clear. If when you turn on the hot water, the clear water you are used to turns to a rusty color, and it only comes from the hot side of the piping in your home, this can be a sign that your water heater is rusting away on the inside and it may begin to leak soon. However, this could also be a sign of rusty pipes instead if you have galvanized piping throughout your home. A good test to avoid replacing a functioning water heater is to drain a few five-gallon buckets of hot water out of the water heater. By the third bucket, if the water from your heater is still coming out rusty, then most likely the water heater (not the piping) is at fault. Here are some other things it could be too. Muddy or sandy water can be a sign of sediment build up in your tank. In some cases you can drain the contents to remove sediment and bring your water heater back to normal. But if you have eliminated these other two possibilities and your hot water still has a metallic smell and taste to it, then this could be a sign that the water heater is breaking down, with grit and flakes from the inner tank combining with your water supply.
- Your water heater is noisy. If you hear your water heater – rumbling, banging, or loud cracks and pops for instance – it may be an indication that the interaction between the heating elements and the inside heater has mineral build up on them. As water heats, minerals separate and fall to the bottom of your tank and insulate the water from the burner. As a water heater ages, sediment will build up on the bottom of the tank. As the sediment is heated and reheated, it eventually will harden. The layer of hardened sediment means your water heater will lose efficiency and will have to use more gas or electricity to heat the water. The extra time spent heating the water will cause more wear on the metal tank and lead to more brittle metal that can crack and develop tiny holes. When this happens, you can often hear rumbling or banging sounds coming from the water heater as it is heating up. This is a sign that the water heater is at the end of its useful life. If you start to hear rumbling from your water heater, keep an eye out for any small leaks. If you find one, then it may be time to replace your water heater.
(NOTE: One reason to install a water filtration system in your home is to curb the amount of mineral build-up in your water heater over the long term, which can extend its life.)
- You discover your water heater is leaking. Leaks are never a good thing. If you notice water puddling around your water heater, it’s a sign the inner tank has reached the end of its life. Slow drips and leaks quickly escalate, causing serious flooding if the entire tank breaks. However, before replacing your water heater, make sure there are no other leaks coming from either the fittings or connections to the tank. Also, make sure the temperature/pressure overflow pipe is not leaking. If all of the connections and fittings are dry, it may be time to replace the water heater.
Taking a proactive approach by looking at these five indicators about your water heater may save you thousands of dollars in repairs. If you discover any of the signs above, then the only way to truly know if your water heater can be repaired, or will need to be replaced, is by having a licensed plumber come out to investigate. Give us a call at West Coast Plumbing and Water Treatment, we’d be happy to come look at your water heater for you and even give you a second opinion if you’ve been told your water heater needs replacing, but it doesn’t even show any of these signs of failure.