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6 Hot Water Heater Failure Signs You Should Never Ignore

Besides getting caught without hot water, ignoring signs of failure from your hot water heater can cause MAJOR damage to your home. If your hot water heater “goes” – meaning the plumbing or the unit fails in some way – it will continue to pump water into your living space until it is discovered and the main water supply valve is shut off.

If your hot water heater fails, upwards of 500 gallons per hour of water could get pumped into your home while you are at work! That’s 2 ½ times the amount of water in a standard hot tub! Think about all that water pumping into your home or basement while you are away. Major water damage is caused by failed hot water heaters, and we don’t want yours to be one of them.

If your hot water heater fails, upwards of 500 gallons per hour of water could get pumped into your home while you are at work!

Here are some signs your hot water heater needs some maintenance as soon as possible, or is on its last leg and you need to plan a quick replacement:

1 – Lack of Hot Water

The most common sign of a failing hot water heater is lack of sufficient hot water when you need it. If your shower is giving you lukewarm water or it takes a long time to get hot water coming to your faucets, you have a problem.

Over time, as water is heated in the storage tank (via a gas or electrical source), the mineral deposits in water separate and settle out at the bottom of the tank. These deposits continue to build up, and eventually create a barrier between the water and burner. Consequently, less heat reaches the water, so you showers get colder!

If you ignore these signs, sediment continues to build up, stressing your hot water heater’s heating element. Eventually, it will fail – causing leaking or ceasing to operate altogether.

What Needs to Happen

You can extend the longevity of your water heater by scheduling regular flushing of your water tank with a plumbing professional.

2 – It’s Making Weird Noises

Strange noises coming from your hot water heater is another common signal of water heater failure. If your water heater is making popping, creaking or rumbling noises, it’s time to call Gelinas HVAC. Mineral buildup and hard water can be to blame when it comes to water heater noises as well. Mineral deposits can cause popping sounds, and pockets of air in the sediment layer will cause rumbling noises.

What Needs to Happen

Have your tank flushed to remove any buildup inside the tank, and give a technician a chance to inspect the plumbing elements. If your hot water heater is still making noise once it has been flushed, there is probably a more serious problem with the unit overall. Water heaters that make odd noises despite being flushed are likely on the verge of a crack or leak, and a tank replacement is the best solution.

3 – Your Water Doesn’t Look or Smell Right

If your hot water is looking a little murky or you detect a metallic smell (or taste) to it, you have signs of a failing hot water heater. Cloudy water happens when contaminants and deposits travel out of the water tank and into your water supply. A metallic odor or taste often accompanies these deposits. When these sediments get out into your water supply, they clog faucets and plumbing valves, reduce water flow, and cause other plumbing failures.

What Needs to Happen

If you have your unit inspected and it’s working okay, you can add a water filter for a fix on the color or smell. The EPA reports that rust in water does not present immediate health concerns. However, once the rust reaches your hot water tank or plumping pipes, it will cause corrosion and eventually leaks. It’s better to be proactive and replace your tank or rusty pipes before the situation gets worse.

4 – Leaking or Faulty Pressure Valve

The pressure relief valve on a hot water tank is an unheralded but essential safety mechanism on your hot water heater. The temperature and pressure relief (TPR) valve on your water heater opens to relive buildup, and prevents temperature or pressure from building dangerously high, preventing a burst tank or, worse, explosion. The two main issues are a leaking TPR, or there is poor water flow through the pipe when you test the valve.

Buildup of rust, mineral deposits, and corrosion can cause a TPR valve to freeze and fail to function properly. A failed safety relief valve can cause tremendous damage. If your TPR valve malfunctions and is not fixed, your water tank could exceed boiling point and burst. Tanks have been reported to rocket through floors in homes, causing catastrophic property damage and potential personal injury.

What Needs to Happen

To test your hot water heater’s TPR valve, put a bucket beneath the valve and raise and lower the test lever several times so it lifts the brass stem that the valve is fastened to. Hot water should rush out of the end of the drainpipe. If no water flows through the pipe or you just get a trickle of water, call a plumber immediately to replace the valve and ensure that debris or equipment malfunction is not causing a malfunction.

5 – Your Hot Water Heater Tank is Leaking

If you see any pooling water beneath your tank, corrosion is leading to fractures and cracks in the tank or your TPR valve has a serious leak. Clear signs of leaks from your tank calls for immediate action and replacement of the water heater. This is a very dangerous situation. Remember – a leaking hot water heater can flood your entire home in a matter of hours causing damage far exceeding the cost of a replacement unit!

What Needs to Happen

If you see a noticeable leak, turn off your water supply at the building shut-off valve and call a licensed plumber immediately. This will at least prevent a flooded basement and wasting of gallons of water.

If the leak is coming from the TPR valve, the valve element can likely be replaced, fixing the problem and saving you from replacing the entire water tank. If the leak is coming from the tank due to corrosion or old age, the water heater will have to be replaced.

6 – Your Hot Water Heater is Old

Much depends on your water supply and the quality of the hot water heater purchased, but typically residential hot water heaters last between six and 13 years. If your unit is over 10 years old, you are on borrowed time! As mentioned, the expense, inconvenience, and potential safety hazard that a ruptured hot water heater presents far outweighs the cost of a replacement unit. For a fraction of the cost of water damage, you can have a quality, energy efficient water heater installed.

SAVE $150 Off a New Hot Water Heater

If you are experiencing any of the failure signs described in this article in your hot water heater, give Gelinas HVAC a call! One of plumbers can come give you an inspection, and either repair or replace your unit before any damage is done to your home or valuable possessions.

We offer installation on traditional tank-style hot water heaters, as well as tankless water heater models. Save $150 off the purchase and installation of a 40 gallon electric hot water heater (offered through 2/28/21). Contact us today to learn more.