Hot water is a modern convenience none of us can do without. Fortunately, over the past several decades, accessing hot water at the turn of a tap has become simpler than ever. Thanks to your water heater, your entire household can enjoy hot water all day long for showering, washing dishes, doing laundry, and enjoying a relaxing soak in the tub.
However, your water heater does quite a bit of work to ensure your family stays comfortable and happy. After years of performing the hard work of heating water whenever you need it, your water heater can start to falter and, eventually, break down entirely.
Fortunately, several warning signs indicate whether your water heater is on the verge of failing, which means you can nip the problem in the bud before you have to suffer through cold showers. If you notice any of these symptoms of a failing water heater, get in touch with a plumbing professional right away to discuss your replacement and repair options.
1. Your Tap Water Looks Discolored
Your water heater is made of metal, and since it stores large amounts of water, it needs some way to prevent rust from forming inside the heater. Every water heater has a component called an anode rod, which uses electrolysis to absorb corrosion and protect the heater’s metal.
If you don’t have a functioning anode rod, or if your water heater is several decades old, the anode is probably covered in corrosion. Since the anode rod can no longer do its job, rust might have spread throughout the unit.
However, if you have an old piping system, rusty pipes could be your problem-not a rusty water heater. Before you panic and purchase a new heater, make sure the unit is the real problem. Call a plumber to examine and drain the water heater. If the water still comes out rusty after your plumber fills several buckets, your rust problem lies in the heater, not the pipes.
2. Your Unit Is Over 10 Years Old
Some water heater units have a longer life expectancy than 10 years, especially tankless water heaters, which can last for decades. However, after 10 years, you can expect most units to start experiencing problems. If you don’t yet have many problems but want to replace your water heater before they happen, look at your unit’s serial number to determine how old it is.
Most manufacturing companies use similar date codes on their water heaters’ serial numbers. Your serial number should start with a letter from A to L. A, the first letter of the alphabet, represents January, the first month of the year. The letter should be followed by a two-digit number, like “12.” If your unit’s serial number starts with “A12,” your unit was manufactured in January of 2012.
Again, some companies don’t follow this practice, so look up the manufacturer’s information to determine if you can follow this date code guideline.
After 10 years, your unit could start leaking, rusting, or losing energy efficiency. Even if your water heater seems to work fine, get in touch with a plumber for seasonal maintenance to prolong your aging heater’s life. You could also consider upgrading to a more energy-efficient appliance to avoid future problems that stem from old age, and save extra money on your monthly utility bill.
3. Your Unit Takes Too Long to Heat Water or Makes Loud Noises
If you have to wait several minutes for your water to heat up, calcium deposits could be to blame. Have a professional drain your water heater and inspect it for hard water deposits. You can also have a plumber perform regular maintenance to deal with chemical deposits from hard water. Your plumber can even install a soft water filter to protect your appliance.
If you clean your water heater regularly, it should last for a very long time. However, if you haven’t cleaned your water heater in the entire time you’ve owned it, it could be too late to salvage it from hard water deposits.
Plus, if you hear a rattling or banging noise when your water heater turns on, you might have no choice but to replace it. This sound means that deposits and sediments have hardened on the bottom of your water heater, which can no longer operate efficiently. Check for leaks if you hear banging or rattling noises.
Talk to Your Plumber for More Advice
Still unsure about whether or not you should replace your water heater? Talk to your plumber. They can evaluate your tank’s current condition, weigh replacement costs with repair costs, and make a recommendation on how you should proceed. With a little help from your local plumber, you and your family members can go back to enjoying the convenience of hot water in no time.