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10 Noticeable Signs Your Water Heater is Going Bad

10 signs your water heater is going bad

Your water heater is an important part of your home. It provides you with hot water for bathing, washing dishes, and laundry. Water heaters are particularly complicated but they are pretty critical to our everyday life. So what do you do if you think your water heater is going bad? In this blog post, we will discuss 10 signs that will help you identify if your water heater needs repair or replacement.

What is the Lifespan of a Water Heater?

Water heaters typically last anywhere from 8 to 12 years, with tankless systems lasting even longer. If your water heater is over 8 years old, it may be time to start thinking about a replacement. There are a few factors that determine the lifespan of a water heater:

  • Type of water heater
  • Quality of the unit
  • Regular maintenance

Read next: How Long Do Water Heaters Last?

What Causes a Hot Water Heater to Stop Working?

Age is not the only factor that determines whether or not your water heater needs to be replaced. Here are some things that cause your hot water heater to stop working:

  • Sediment build-up
  • Rust and corrosion
  • Loose fittings
  • Too high pressure

Water heaters have magnesium-style anode rods, which are intended to prevent rust and corrosion. However, once the anode no longer protect, rust will begin to corrode various metallic components within the heater and the entire unit can begin to leak.

Continue reading: When to Replace Your Water Heater

Signs a Water Heater is Going Bad

To keep your hot water heater performing optimally it is a good idea to regularly check the performance of your water heater. Here are some warning signs that your hot water heater is going out:

1. Your Water Heater Makes Strange Noises

A water heater making strange noises could be a sign that the unit is beginning to fail. These sounds may include popping, banging, or even rumbling. Hot water heater noises are usually caused by sediment build-up on the bottom of the tank. When this happens, it can cause the unit to overheat and eventually fail.

2. Decreased or Varying Water Temperature

If you notice that the water temperature from your hot water heater is not as consistent as it used to be, or if the water temperature is noticeably lower than it used to be, this could be a sign that the unit is beginning to fail. Temperature irregularities are something to have checked out as soon as possible, as they can be indicative of a much larger problem.

3. Low Water Pressure

Good water pressure from your cold water faucets but low water pressure from your hot water faucets could be a sign that there is sediment build-up in your hot water heater. Over time, sediment will build up in the bottom of the tank and can cause a number of problems.

4. Discolored or Rusty Water

If you start to notice that your hot water is yellow, discolored or rusty, this is a sign that the anode rod in your water heater tank is beginning to fail. The anode rod is responsible for protecting the interior of the tank from corrosion, so if it’s failing, it’s only a matter of time before the tank itself starts to rust.

5. Hot Water Shortage

Finding yourself running out of hot water more quickly than usual is often a sign that your water heater is on its last legs. When water heaters start to go bad, they often lose their ability to heat water properly, which can result in shorter showers and less hot water overall.

6. Water Heater Leaks

If you notice your water heater leaking, it’s definitely time for a replacement. Water heaters are designed to be airtight, so any leaking is a sign that something has gone wrong. Leaking water heaters can cause a significant amount of damage to your home so it is important to check the heater and valves regularly for leaks. If your hot water heater is leaking, turn it off immediately and get a professional to look at it.

7. Frequent Repairs

Frequent water heater repairs are a good sign that it may be time to replace it. With each repair, there is the potential for new problems to develop or for old problems to become worse. If you find yourself making frequent hot water heater repairs, it may be more cost-effective in the long run to replace your water heater.

8. Age of Hot Water Heater

As stated above, the average lifespan of a water heater is about 8 to 12 years. If your water heater is approaching or exceeding this age, it may be time for a replacement. If there is any sediment build-up in the tank, it will eventually solidify at the bottom. This causes a number of problems, including decreased efficiency and eventual water heater failure. The good news is that having your water heater regularly maintained will prolong its life.

9. Higher Energy Bills

Sediment buildup in your water heater will reduce energy efficiency as it ages. Sediment in a hot water heater comes from minerals in the water. Over time, these minerals will settle to the bottom of the tank and build up, making it difficult for heat to transfer evenly throughout the tank. This can lead to your water heater not working as efficiently as it once did.

If you notice higher energy bills, this may be a sign that your water heater is not as efficient as it once was. You can extend the life of your water heater by draining it every six months to get rid of the sediment.

10. Water Smells Odd

If your water smells strange, it is usually caused by bacteria growing in the tank. Bacteria love the warm, moist environment of the water heater especially if you keep your temperature below 120 degrees. Corrosion and rust can also cause bacteria. You can usually get rid of bacteria by draining and treating your water. If the problem persists, you may need to replace your water heater.

Can My Old Water Heater Make Me Sick?

While most of the signs that your water heater is going bad are more of a nuisance than anything, there is one sign, noted above, that could be indicative of a serious problem – strange smells coming from your water.

If your water smells odd or has a rotten egg smell, it is usually caused by sulfate-reducing bacteria growing in the tank. These bacteria can make you sick. Maintaining your water heater temperature is key to preventing bacteria growth. Older water heaters have a harder time maintaining a hot enough temperature to kill off bacteria, which is why replacing an older water heater is key to your family’s health.

5 Risks of an Older Hot Water Heater

When things go wrong with your water heater it has the potential to cause a lot of havoc in your life. Here are some other risks of not paying attention to your older hot water heater.

1. Mold Growth from Leaks

If your water heater is leaking then it is also at risk for mold growth. This is because water and moisture are the two key ingredients that mold needs to grow. Not only does mold pose a serious health risk, but it can also cause structural issues in your home. If you see signs of a leak, such as water on the floor around your water heater or pooled up near the base of your unit, address it immediately to prevent mold from growing.

2. Nesting Critters

Another risk of an older water heater is that it could become a home for critters looking to nest. Small animals like the warmth of a water heater and will often nest near a water heater. If your unit is outdoors or situated in an area that is open to the outside, this is even more likely.

Rats and mice can cause all sorts of damage, including chewing on wires and insulation. This not only damages your water heater but also creates a fire hazard. To prevent this from happening, make sure to keep the area around your water heater clear and free of debris. If you notice damage from chewing and nesting then it’s time to start shopping for a new water heater.

3. Electrical Shortages and Outages

As an electrical water heater ages, you may start to notice more power outages and shortages. This is because the heating element in an electric water heater can short circuit as it ages. If this happens, it can trip the breaker or blow a fuse.

4. Blocked Valves

Older water heaters might have trouble maintaining water pressure because the valves are starting to fail. Over time, sediment and minerals can build up in the valves, causing them to become blocked. This can lead to a loss of water pressure or even a complete loss of hot water.

5. Overheating

One of the signs that your water heater is going bad is if it starts to overheat. This can be caused by a build-up of sediment in the tank or hard water build up on the heating element. Because the burners have to work harder to bring the water to the proper temperature they stay on longer, causing high temperatures. This can lead to serious problems, like skin burns from too hot of water and even fires.

Should I Replace My Water Heater Before it Goes Bad?

It depends on if you like having regular hot water or not. If there are signs of a failing hot water heater and you wait to replace it until it goes bad, you could be looking at several days before you have hot water again.

Preparing before it becomes an emergency will save you money and inconvenience in the long run. It can also keep your home from being damaged. A burst hot water heater could pour 50 gallons or more of water into your home or garage. Also, making a quick decision under pressure can leave you with regrets.

Continue reading: How Much Does it Cost to Replace a Water Heater?

Benefits of a New Hot Water Heater

While hot water heaters are not very complicated there is always newer technology that can save you money. New hot water heaters are more energy efficient which will save money on your energy bill. They also have a longer lifespan and some models come with a warranty of up to 12 years.

Tankless water heaters are also a great option. These water heaters do not have a tank and only heat the water when you need it which gives them a longer life span. They are very energy efficient but can be more expensive than a traditional hot water heater.

If you have any concerns that your water heater may be going bad, it is always best to consult with a professional. They will be able to help diagnose the problem and recommend the best course of action.

Water Heater Inspection and Replacement Services in Portland

There are many factors that go into deciding when to replace your water heater and Jacobs Heating & Air Conditioning experts are here to guide you. We carry a variety of hot water heaters so that your home or business has the best and most efficient water heaters around.

Avoid extra costs and fewer repairs by scheduling a maintenance check for your existing water heating system before issues arise. No matter what you need, we’re always just a phone call away.

Whether you are in the market for a new water heater or simply have questions about your current one, Jacobs Heating & Air Conditioning is here to help. We’ve been servicing the Portland area for over 70 years and our experience shows in the quality of our work. Give us a call today!

About the Author

Amanda Jacobs portrait

Amanda Jacobs, Internal Project Manager

Amanda Jacobs is an Internal Projects Manager and 3rd generation member of Jacobs Heating & Air Conditioning. She received her MBA from Seattle University and has worked for a leading HVAC training and consulting firm. When not talking HVAC on the Jacobs Blog, you can find her on the golf course or whipping up her famous vegan chili.