Warning signs it’s time to replace your water heater

Your water heater is an appliance. It might not be as much fun as that fancy mixer or your espresso machine, but it plays a vital role in your home, and unfortunately, it will break down just like any other appliance.

Here are some signs to look for that could indicate it’s time to replace your water heater:

    • Lukewarm water

If that hot shower in the morning suddenly goes lukewarm; the heating element on your water heater could be faulty. The parts in the element are prone to failure, particularly if the unit is old.

    • Age

So much water is filtered through your hot water heater that it’s surprising they last as long as they do, which is between eight and 12 years. Count yourself lucky if you’ve been living with the same water heater for longer than a dozen years.

    • Poor draining ability

The buildup of sediment will settle to the bottom of the heater tank, and this actually speeds up the rate at which the tank itself fails. You’ll know if this is occurring if you turn on the drain valve and either nothing happens or water barely dribbles out. You can prevent this from happening by flushing your tank entirely once a year.

    • Leaks

It’s not often that a leaking tank can be repaired, so if you notice a leak, get an inspection because you’ll need to repair or replace your water heater before it floods your home.

Be wary of these water heater problems

To repair or replace your water heater – that is the question. Of course, everyone who encounters a problem with their heater crosses their fingers for a quick fix, but that’s not always going to be in the cards, especially if the system is 10 years old or older. Professional plumbers will help make the decision.

If you see burn marks, a yellow flame color, corrosion or dripping or leaking water, these problems will need immediate action. Burn marks could be from improper venting or damaged flue pipes.

If you hear a popping sound when the heater fires up (or turns on for those with electric systems), you’re encountering an accumulation of sludge in your tank. The sludge forms little pockets that causes the heating element to generate steam that causes the popping noise.

A loud blower motor is also a common signal that you’re having problems. Generally, the bearings will wear out, which is what causes all the racket. Unfortunately, once the motor dies, your water heater won’t work.

Common tips for keeping your water line in good condition

If there are two lines connected to your home that can be deemed “most important,” they have to be the sewer line, which carries away waste water, and your water line, which brings that precious H2O to your bathrooms, kitchen and your outdoor spigots.

Keeping a consistent inspection schedule is the key to catching a faulty line before it goes completely south on you. One culprit that leads to faulty lines includes tree roots that can find their way into the path of your water line after years and years of growing. Should you see a sudden drop in water pressure, schedule an inspection, because lime scale, tree roots and a failing line could be the cause.

Another tip for keeping your water line in good condition is to look for puddles. The water will actually bubble up in some cases if there is a leak below your property. Catching it before it becomes a big issue will save you time and money.

Selecting a new water heater

One of the best ways to pick out a new heater is to look at the specs on the one you currently have and find a similar model. You’ll need to look for the following:

    • Dimensions

You shouldn’t get a unit that is too big or too small for your needs or for the physical space in which the heater must be installed.

    • Capacity

The volume of the tank is crucial. If you’ve got a large family that requires multiple bathrooms for bathing, make sure the unit has the appropriate capacity to keep everyone in the amount of hot water they require during peak usage times.

    • Heating per hour

Again, if you have a system that doesn’t heat your water as fast as you need it, you’re going to run into issues. Make sure the recovery rate is appropriate for your needs.

    • Energy

    If you want to stay energy conscious, ask about which units offer the best bang for the buck (and the environment). Generally speaking, the smaller the tank, the more efficient the system.

    Ask your plumber if gas or electric will be the best fit for your home. Hybrid and solar tanks are also an option with some plumbing contractors.

    Preventing a water heater failure emergency before it happens

    Don’t take the risk – if you’ve got an aging system, you’re essentially taking a gamble that will not pay off. If you aren’t sure how old it is, check the side of the unit and look for a series of letters and numbers. If it says A13; that means it was made in January of 2013. If it says J03; it was made in October of 2003. The letter corresponds with the month and the last two digits represent the year. An extremely old manufacture date might be an indication it is time to replace your water heater with a newer more efficient unit.

    Is your water running red? This is another sign that you could be about to experience an emergency. The corrosion inside the tank will often be sediment with a lot of iron in it, so when that rusts you’ll see red coming through your hot water.

    Your water heater can also become something akin to a dangerous rocket if you aren’t careful. Gas leaks and water pressure are the two culprits that can lead to a dangerous event. The shut off valve should allow your water heater to automatically shut off before the pressure reaches dangerous levels. When this safety mechanism fails, it can cause the pressure to build up until the tank explodes.

    Prevent water heater failure before it happens by contacting Valley Fire Protection Systems. We’re known for our fire protection services, but we’re expert, certified plumbers who can handle all your water heater needs, so contact us today.

    Related Topics: Plumbing Problems // Water Heater
    By: Tom Hartel
    I acquired my expertise by directing day-to-day operations of the business for over 20 years. Continuous hard work helped me become a nationally recognized speaker and expert on fire protection, fire sprinklers, special hazards, and plumbing systems. In this blog, I share my knowledge that will hopefully help you make better decisions for your projects.


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