Watch For These Signs You May Need to Replace Your Water Heater

Homeowners today assume hot water will be available when they turn on a faucet. That’s why it’s important to watch for warning signs that you need to replace your water heater before you’re left in the cold.

Hot water heaters are among the most heavily used appliances in a home. A household uses an average of about 20 gallons of hot water per person per day. That means homeowners must stay proactive when it comes to maintaining and monitoring their water heater’s operation.

There will come a day when you will need a new water heater installation. Before then, look for these signs that your water heater must be replaced.

Cloudy, rusty or sandy water

Discolored water is a common problem for older water heaters, but it’s not necessarily a sign your water heater needs replacing. Corrosion can lead to discolored water coming out of the faucets. To check if it’s your water heater or your pipes, run cold water separately for a few minutes. If discolored water comes out of the hot tap and not the cold, it may be time for a new water heater.

Cloudy or sandy water could be a sign of sediment buildup in the heater’s tank. If the water remains cloudy or sandy after draining the tank and cleaning out sediment, this also may be a sign you need a new water heater.

Little or no hot water

When you run the hot tap and no warm water comes out, that may seem like the clearest sign your heater needs replacing. The problem first surfaces when hot water doesn’t last as long or the water isn’t hot enough. This could be an issue with the hot water heater thermostat, which can be adjusted to increase heat. The typical water heater thermostat is set from 120 to 140 degrees.

If the amount of hot water doesn’t increase or if the heat doesn’t intensify after adjusting the thermostat, this may be a sign you need a new heater. A lack of hot water could be a broken heating element in the heater. A plumber may be able to fix this, but it may be best to replace older systems if replacement parts are not available.

Strange noises in water heater

As water heaters age, they make rumbling noises that get louder as they heat the water. In some cases, this could be a sign the heater needs replacing.

Sediment buildup can harden at the bottom of a water heater, making it less efficient and accelerating damage to the tank as it grows harder and thicker.  This can be due to various reasons, which may be more significant signs the heater needs to be replaced. This can lead to louder rumbling noises, which should decrease when the sediment is removed. If the noise continues, get a new tank.

Leaks in the water heater

Another sign you may need to replace your water heater is when you discover it’s leaking around the bottom of the tank. This is common for water heaters near the end of their life span. Leaks come from fractures that can occur as a result of expansions of metal in the tank. These occur over the multiple heating cycles of the tank’s life.

Some hot water leaks that are minor can be fixed. However, this only buys you time until the eventual replacement is necessary.

Frequent repairs in recent years

Multiple repair calls over time may mean you need a new water heater. Consider the expense of additional repair bills or whether the repairs are simply delaying the inevitable replacement. As water heaters become more sophisticated and advanced, they will continue to last longer and provide more efficiency.

You don’t know how old the water is

If you have lived in your home for a number of years and don’t know how old your water is, it may be time to replace it. This is a common problem for people who buy a house with a water heater installed by the previous owners years ago. Contact a plumber to help identify the age of the heater and to identify a possible replacement.

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Barb Webb. Founder and Editor of Rural Mom, is an the author of "Getting Laid" and "Getting Baked". A sustainable living expert nesting in Appalachian Kentucky, when she’s not chasing chickens around the farm or engaging in mock Jedi battles, she’s making tea and writing about country living and artisan culture.
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