A typical tank water heater will usually last for around eight to 15 years, and most all units will end up needing some repairs during that period. Many water heater issues start quite small, but they can eventually create other issues that could lead to the unit completely breaking down and needing to be replaced. As such, you should contact a professional water heater repair service as soon as you notice any issues. Here are the main things you will want to look for.
1. Water Heater Is Leaking
If you notice water dripping out of your water heater or pooling on the floor around it, this is a fairly obvious sign that you need to have the unit inspected or repaired. Water leaking from the bottom of the unit is a virtual guarantee that the tank has corroded and sprung a leak. In this case, your only option is to replace the unit, which is something you should do immediately as otherwise the tank could fail and send its entire contents flooding out.
However, not all leaks are signs of serious problems. A leak could simply be that the drain valve near the bottom of your unit is worn out, and this is fairly simple to fix by having a plumber replace the valve.
If you notice water dripping down the side of the unit, the problem is most likely related to the temperature and pressure (T&P) valve. When the temperature and pressure inside the unit rise above a certain point, the T&P valve will open to allow some water out so that the pressure again drops. The T&P valve can sometimes get stuck partially open to where a bit of water constantly drains out, and this can also be fixed by repairing or replacing the valve.
The T&P valve is an important safety mechanism, but it generally shouldn’t ever open as the water heater should always be able to properly regulate the temperature and thus pressure inside the tank. If you notice that your valve is letting out water quite frequently, it usually means that the unit is heating the water to too high of a temperature. In this case, you might need to have the temperature control replaced.
2. No Hot Water or Water Won’t Get Hot Enough
If you have no hot water at all, you’ll want to first make sure that your water heater is on. In a gas unit, this will mean checking that the circuit breaker isn’t tripped. Checking a gas unit can be a bit more difficult unless you have other gas-burning appliances. In this case, you should check the other appliances to see if they still have gas flowing into them. If only your water heater is affected, make sure that the gas valve is open, and then try to relight the pilot light. You should be able to smell gas when relighting the pilot light. If you don’t, it means that there is an issue with the unit’s gas valve or the gas line that supplies it.
If your water never gets as hot as it should or the temperature often fluctuates, you’ll need to have the unit inspected as it could be that the burners are dirty and not producing enough heat or that one of the electric heating elements is worn out. It is also a good idea to have the unit drained and flushed. Flushing removes all of the sediment from the tank, which is important as sediment build-up can interfere with the unit’s ability to heat properly.
3. Long Recovery Times
On tank water heaters, recovery time refers to the amount of time from when you use all of the hot water until the unit fully reheats. The average recovery time for a gas water heater should be somewhere between 30 minutes and an hour depending on how large the tank is. Electric water heaters tend to heat more slowly and will usually have a recovery time of somewhere between one and two hours.
If you find that the recovery time is longer than normal or the unit suddenly reheats far more slowly than it used to, it is a sign that you need to have the unit inspected. In most cases, these issues typically mean that the burner or electrical heating elements aren’t working properly or that sediment is reducing how quickly the unit can heat.
4. Knocking or Other Unusual Noises
Your water heater really shouldn’t make much noise when running. However, you may start to hear a gas water heater unit occasionally make a loud knocking or banging noise when heating. In a gas water heater, the majority of the heat comes directly from the burner underneath the unit’s tank.
When the unit is running, the heat from the burner is absorbed by the metal burner plate that sits inside the bottom of the tank. The heat from the plate then flows out into the cooler water at the bottom of the tank. However, if there is a thick layer of sediment at the bottom of the tank, it will absorb much of the heat from the burner. This is why sediment leads to lower water temperatures and slower recovery times.
The knocking or banging sound also occurs when scale or sediment builds up. These particles are disturbed when the unit heats, and the small bubbles of air that are produced can break up the sediment as they pass through, creating distinctive sounds. Draining and flushing the system will help remove the scale and sediment so that your water heater will once again work quietly and efficiently.
5. Discoloration or Unpleasant Odors
Hot water that looks rusty or cloudy is a sure sign you need to have your water heater serviced and repaired. The same is also true if your hot water has an unusual or unpleasant odor. These issues typically mean that you have rust, bacteria or lots of sediment inside your water heater tank. If bacteria are present, your temperature may be set too low or the unit isn’t heating properly. This is because as long as the water is heated to at least 120 degrees, no bacteria should be able to form.
If the water is rusty, you will need to have the unit drained, flushed and inspected. This problem usually indicates that you have issues with sediment build-up or that the tank has started to corrode. Corrosion in the tank means that the anode rod has worn out and is due for replacement. The anode rod works to keep minerals in the water from reacting with the steel tank and leading to corrosion.
Absolute Air specializes in water heater repairs and maintenance, and our team works on all brands and types of units. We can help if your water heater needs replacing or if you need any heating or cooling maintenance, repair or installation services in the Morgantown or Pittsburgh areas. Contact us today if you have any questions or need to schedule a water heater inspection.