Tips & Resources
Water is one of those life essentials that you count on every day, and problems with your water heater are frustrating. Here are some common problems and what may be causing them. Some causes depend on what type of water heater you have.
If your water heater is electric, and doesn’t generate hot water even after being on for a while, chances are the electric heating element is not working. If that is the case, you can get a replacement from your local hardware store.
If your water heater is gas, check the pilot light. If it is turned off, simply turn it on. The gas will flow again, and your water will heat.
Every water heater has a thermostat. This could also potentially be the problem. If it is malfunctioning, the water may be too hot or too cold. Contact your HVAC professional for a replacement.
Discolored water is startling to see in your sink or shower, but it can be fixed. Your water heater has a metal element inside, called the anode. With extended heat exposure, over time the anode can rust and degrade. As it dissolves in the water, you see that rust color. To fix the problem, replace the anode with a new one.
Water that is too hot could be caused by the thermostat being set too high, or by a thermostat that is malfunctioning. The Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends setting your water heater to 120 degrees to prevent scalding. If yours is set correctly and the water is still too hot, you may need a new thermostat.
Leaks from a water heater are a common problem that can either start from the top or the bottom of the device. While there can be a number of causes, the most common is corrosion. When water stays in the tubes for a long time, sediments and rust start to form, and eventually create cracks inside the tubing or the tank itself. The result is a leak.
Every time you run the water in your home, you notice a smell like rotten eggs. This is likely a sign of bacterial or fungal infection. Bacteria feed on the hydrogen emitted by the anode rod in your water tank. Another form of bacteria, Legionella, can develop in mildly warm water. To eliminate the bacteria, flush your hot water heater. Drain all the water and fill the tank with 2 pints of 3% hydrogen peroxide. Leave it in the tank for 2 hours. Then drain the tank and refill it with fresh water. Do this once a year as a preventative measure. To prevent Legionella from infecting your water, make sure your water heater is set at 120 degrees.
Popping sounds are also caused by excessive sediment in the tank. To eliminate the sediment, flush the tank and refill with fresh water. Flushing the tank and scrubbing the tubing and other parts once a year can prevent the noise from reoccurring.
Water heaters typically last 10-15 years. If yours has outlived its useful life, you will have to replace it. There are many options, and likely some improvements since your current water heater was installed. Talk to your HVAC company to determine which type of heater is right for you.