We love our water heaters, don’t we? Water heaters allow us to live a comfortable life, but even with regular maintenance, just like all other home appliances, they don’t have an infinite lifespan; they are bound to break down after years of use. Sometimes, all they need is some repair and they go back to working.
Other times, however, they’ve reached their maximum service capacity and it’s time for a replacement. How can you tell the difference?
A water heater has a life expectancy of about 8 to 12 years. Of course, this varies with the design of the unit, model, maintenance, quality installation, and water quality. However, if your heater is more than 10 years old, works erratically, and leaks around the base of the tank, it’s time to get a new one. Before replacing it, call a technician from Provincial Heating to confirm that the breakdown is not as a result of a tripped breaker or blown fuse. To find the age, look at the serial number on the manufacturer’s sticker. Most models’ serial number stickers are usually adhered to the upper portion of the water heater.
If, when you turn on the hot water, it has a cloudy, metallic smell and taste to it, the heater is on its way out. While cloudiness is usually an indication of sediment buildup, a rusty color and odor suggests that the glass lining of the tank has been fully compromised. Either of these signs is an indicator that the water heater is breaking down, so instead of waiting for complete failure, think about replacing it immediately. If you notice that both hot and cold water have a rusty odor and appearance, it’s a sign that there could be excess iron in the water supply. Although this is more common with well water, corroding steel plumbing can also cause the problem. To confirm your suspicions, talk to your water suppliers and ask them for a water quality report.
Rumbling and Noise
With continual use, and over time, sediment may build up on the bottom of the tank. Eventually, as the sediment goes through heating and reheating, it hardens. This causes rumbling and banging sounds from the water heater. Apart from the annoying noise, hardened sediment buildup will cause the heater to consume more electricity or gas as it struggles to heat the water. In the long run, you will end up incurring increased energy bills. Also, since heating water will require extra time due to the hardened sediment, the result will be more wear on the metal tank. A worn out tank becomes brittle and develops tiny holes. So, basically, rumbling noises are a sign that the heater has reached the end of its useful life. If you notice signs of sediment buildup early enough, you can prevent the heater from breaking down by getting rid of the sediment before it hardens.
Leaks or Pooling
Leaks from your water heater spell trouble. Sometimes, you’ll notice a puddle of water under the unit and other times, puddles will form but then quickly dry up leaving deposits around the heater. If this isn’t fixed, moisture around the unit will eventually lead to corrosion. If you notice either of these things, call a plumber immediately. Sometimes, the heater may not be the one leaking, rather it could be one of the fittings down the line. A qualified plumber knows how to properly investigate and find the source of any leaks. Often, leaks and pooling are a sign that the heater needs replacing. If the water tank bursts it can cause major flooding; this is not a problem you’ll want to postpone fixing.
Stops Heating like it used to
If you notice that your water is no longer hot but lukewarm, this is a sign of a dying water heater. If you’ve tried adjusting your thermostat but you’re still not getting the hot water volume you used to, plan to purchase a new heater because the current one is nearing its end.
Apart from the signs mentioned above, a water heater requiring frequent repairs is an indicator for the need of a replacement. When different parts of your water heater start breaking down, the entire system will keep demanding frequent repairs. If this is the case, get a replacement before the breakdown causes a major impact to your home. Anytime you spot either one or more of the signs mentioned above, procrastinating to call a plumber will only hamper your comfort.
A final note: A big family will have more hot water needs and this may shorten a heater’s life compared to the longevity of a heater supplying water to just one person.