Stepping into a cold shower is never the right way to start a morning. Unfortunately, problems with hot water heaters can cause a failure of the heating mechanism, as well as a host of unpleasant side effects like rusty water, noise, and leaks. While more complex problems may require the help of an experienced plumbing company, minor hot water heater maintenance can usually be performed by the average do-it-yourselfer. When you’re experiencing problems with hot water heaters, here’s what you’ll want to check.
No Hot Water
One of the most common problems with hot water heaters include water that fails to heat up. If people in your household have been using the hot water all day, the tank may just need time to re-heat the water. If excessive use is not the answer, check to see if the circuit breaker has tripped. If not, there may be an issue with the thermostat. If the water heater is gas-powered, the pilot light may have gone out.
Not Enough Hot Water
Perhaps you do have some hot water, but just not enough. When this problem arises, the culprit is generally an undersized hot water heater. If you’re suddenly using more hot water than you normally would, it may be time to upgrade to a newer tank. However, if the amount of hot water you use daily hasn’t changed and you’re still running low prematurely, try adjusting the temperature dial. Also check around the tank itself for possible leaks.
Water Is Too Hot
In some scenarios, the water is actually too hot, increasing your risk of scalds and burns. Water that is too hot is usually caused by a thermostat set too high. To remedy this problem, just turn the thermostat to a cooler setting and wait a couple of hours for the water temperature to lower. If you haven’t changed the setting on your thermostat, it may be malfunctioning. If the water heater fails to turn off at its set temperature, the pressure relief valve may need replacing.
Rusty Colored Water
Other problems with hot water heaters include discolorations of the water itself. If your home’s water appears black or rusty, the cause is likely a buildup of rust and sediment in the tank. Flush and clean the hot water tank to see if the problem continues. If it does, check the anode rod, which is designed to prevent the tank from rusting. A dissolved anode rod will need to be replaced to keep problems with rust at bay.
Foul Smelling Water
In some instances, the water may emit a foul smell. The type of smell can help target the underlying cause. For example, a rotten egg smell may be caused by bacteria buildup in the tank. To fix this issue, clean the tank with chlorine bleach or hydrogen peroxide. If the odor has a garlic-like scent, check to see if the pilot light has gone out. Be sure to turn the gas valve off and wait until the odor clears before relighting the pilot light.
Most excessive noises made by hot water heaters come from one of three things. First, a metal clanking or clanging sound may be caused by the contracting and expanding of metal parts. Next, dripping sounds are generally caused by leaks. Another cause of noise may come from a hard water scale accumulation inside the tank. If you hear a boiling sound coming from your tank, this could indicate overheating of the machinery. Contact a professional immediately.
The average water heater has a life expectancy of about 10 years, according to the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors. If your tank has surpassed its expected lifespan, you may notice an uptick in hot water heater maintenance. Many problems with hot water heaters can be remedied by the average handyman, but more complex issues often require the assistance of a professional plumbing service. If your attempts to repair or maintain your hot water heater have been exhausted, contact the experts to properly diagnose and fix your water heater.
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