If you’re frequently running into issues with your hot water, you may want to consider if it’s time to replace the water heater in your home – or at least do some necessary maintenance and repairs. Regular maintenance can help extend the life of the water heater, and it costs very little to repair and maintain them.
You don’t wait to wait for complete failure, because a busted water heater can often lead to a significant flood. Many a homeowner has woken to find their hot water tank continuously dumping gallons of water into their basement or water closet.
Unfortunately, if you’re not looking for the signs, you likely have no idea that your water heater is about to fail save for a few obvious ones.
Avoid disruption and costly water damage to your home by looking for these signs that it’s time to replace your water heater.
The Age of Your Water Heater
It’s smart to keep track of the age of appliances throughout your home, including the furnace and water heater. Each have varying lifespans. For your water heater, you can find the age by looking for the serial number on a sticker – usually found on the upper portion of the tank.
That serial number contains the date your water heater was manufactured. It won’t look like a normal date though. The date code will start with a letter indicating the month by the placement in the alphabet. For example, if it starts with a D, that is the fourth letter of the alphabet, so it was manufactured in the fourth month of the year (April.) The first two digits of the serial number represent the year. Most manufacturers use a very similar format for date encoding. You can refer to their site, or your manual, for more details. If you’re lucky, you may have proof of manufacture and install on file.
Generally speaking, you should replace your water heater at the 10 year mark, even if you feel like it’s working and running efficiently. It only takes one failure to cause significant water damage.
Water Heater is Making Rumbling Noises
Over time, sediment will gather in your water heater from the natural minerals and elements in the water. As the sediment is repeatedly heated in the tank it will harden over time. As that sediment hardens you’ll start to hear banging in your tank along with rumbling sounds. Once you start to hear these noises from the water tank, it’s an indication that it’s time to replace it. That layer of hardened sediment can’t be removed, the tank will be less efficient, and the tank will eventually become more brittle due to the extra time spent heating.
The Water In Your Home is Rusty
If you start to notice discoloration in your water, and there are no local issues with line breaks and sediment, then there could be a problem with your water heater. Rusty water is sometimes caused by aging or galvanized pipes, so be sure to test your water heater before replacing it. You can do this by draining several buckets of water from the water tank. If you get through more than three buckets, and the water is still coming out rusty, then the most likely issue is the water heater – not your lines.
Dealing with a Leaking Water Heater
Any kind of moisture around your water heater may be an indication of a leak or fracture in your tank. As the water tank is heated, the metal will expand. Constant heating leads to slight fractures over time and water can leak. As the tank cools, the metal will shrink, sometimes enough to stop the leak.
Before you replace your water heater, make sure the leak isn’t coming from an exterior line or fitting.
Water Discoloration Around Water Heater
You may not notice any standing water around your water heater, but there may be discoloration or staining. This could be an indication of an aging tank that is rusting out and leaking, but only in small amounts.
Water Isn’t Getting Hot
Cold or lukewarm water is a clear indication that it may be time for a new water heater. Especially if you crank open your hot water faucets and you’re not getting the right temperature water. If everything else appears to be functioning fine, and it should be heating the water but it’s not, it’s time to replace it.
Tips for Maintaining Your Water Heater
Water heater maintenance is a must, and thankfully it doesn’t take much work very often to keep your water heating up and running. Today’s water heaters are manufactured to require very little interaction from a homeowner, but these little maintenance tips could help prolong the life your new water heater once you replace it.
- Drain the water heater at least twice a year to get rid of sediment that collects in the bottom of the tank. This reduces corrosion and increases the efficiency of your tank.
- Test the pressure-relief valve by lifting the valve handle and allowing it to snap back. This will release a burst of water into the overflow. If this doesn’t happen, you should replace the valve.
- Lower the temperature of your water heater to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. This reduces the chance of damage caused by overheating.
Good upkeep on your hot water heater will prolong the life of your water heater, but it’s still smart to know how to recognize the signs of a failing hot water heater. Being without hot water while you replace it is a minor inconvenience, but a massive leak that causes significant water damage is a costly hassle that you can easily avoid.