We’ve all been there. You’re ready to start your day and turn on the water for the shower, but it just doesn’t get hot. Or you walk into the utility room to discover water cascading onto the floor or around the base of the water heater. These are the two most common reasons we get calls to replace hot water heaters, but there are other indicators to look out for, which may prevent a complete loss of hot water supply to your home’s fixtures. Knowing what to watch for can save you the possible expense of water damage caused by a leaky tank or the fees for an emergency service call outside of regular business hours.
One sign that your water heater needs replacement is simply age. Traditional tank-style water heaters have an average lifespan of 8 to 12 years, which can be affected by use, water quality, maintenance, installation, and manufacturer. Tankless water heaters are estimated to last 20 years or more, with proper maintenance. Deciding to replace your water heater is never easy when it still is sending hot water where it needs to be when you turn on the tap. Considering the machine’s lifespan is essential when determining if you want to repair the tank when there are issues or if replacing it is better.
Another sign of your water heater failing is odd odors, either from the water heater itself or in the water. There may also be a bad taste to the hot water. If you smell any kind of burning plastic or a burning electrical smell, call a plumber immediately. A professional should look at any type of issue with the electricity, thermostat, or heating components of your water heater. If you notice a weird smell or taste of your hot water, it can indicate issues with mineral build-up inside your water heater.
Waiting. And waiting and still waiting. If it seems like it takes an unusually long time for the water heater to catch up and refill itself with hot water when you never really used to notice it before, that is a sure sign there is an issue with your water heater. If it is a gas-fueled water heater, it could also mean your gas supply is having problems. If it is an electrical or gas-fueled water heater, it could be an issue with the thermostat, sediment build-up, or the heating element. Have you recently added a new appliance that uses more hot water than you used to use? If so, your hot water demand may simply be above the capacity your current water heater can supply – the poor heater is trying to catch up, but it just isn’t appropriately sized to meet the new usage levels.
Banging, rumbling, and popping noises in the garage when the water heater cycles? These are not normal sounds to hear when your water heater is heating or storing water. Typically, these odd noises can mean scale or minerals have built up on your heating elements or that sediments have built up in the bottom of the tank. It is perfectly normal to hear some sounds (light ticking of the metal expanding and contracting, gentle shooshing of water flowing through the supply lines, the purr of the gas element firing) coming from your water heater as it is heating water. However, if it sounds like an over-excited popcorn maker, it is time to call the plumber.
Small puddles on top of or around the water heater? Rusty rivulets down the side of the tank? Or rust spots appearing on the top of the tank or around the base of the expansion tank? Different leaks in different areas around or on your water heater can signal it is time to either repair or replace the tank. Water will eventually corrode your water heater with the process of time, as it finds its way through tiny cracks and fissures, which develop over the years. Manufacturers do the best they can to keep the storage tanks protected. Still, constant expansion and contraction and the minute amounts of minerals in the water itself will eventually contribute to the erosion of the tank, causing failure. Calling a fully licensed plumber to inspect and evaluate leaks before they become serious can save you from getting stuck in a hot water pinch.
Stollwerck Plumbing & Sewer is ready to help service your traditional tank-type water heaters, newer tankless water heaters, heat pumps, and commercial water heaters. Give us a call at (425) 374-3909.