When to Replace a Water Heater

When to Replace a Water Heater, Signs It's Time for a New Water Heater

Does Your Water Heater Need Replacement? Tell-tale Signs Provide the Answer

Warm and hot water are among the most essential household requirements. Without heated water, you can’t wash your hands (so important during this pandemic) or take showers, nor can you wash the dishes or run your washing machine.

Most residents take heated water for granted and therefore are somewhat set off balance whenever water for the sink or bathtub fails to reach sufficient warmth.

Okay, so how do you know when it’s time to replace your water heater, keeping in mind that a water heater that receives routine maintenance and timely repairs when necessary can last for many years?

Alas, all good things must come to an end, and you’ll need to replace the water heater at some point when it can no longer do the job it’s supposed to. Luckily, most water heaters show very distinct signs of wear before giving out completely, so you can spot those signs and act accordingly before things get out of hand.

Become one of the homeowners that are prepared for the inevitable replacement of their water heater by committing these signs to mind.

But before we look at these ominous signs, let’s see if maybe the problem is fixable without replacing the entire water heater. Two such issues are a mis-adjusted thermostat and a broken heating element.

These two problems are easy to rectify and don’t necessarily indicate the need for a heater replacement.

Thermostat adjustment

Are you finding that you need to turn your faucet more and more to the hot side for it to reach the desired temperature? In most cases, this is a surefire indication that your water heater might be beyond repair and needs replaced.

But before you call for a replacement heater, the problem could be down to an issue with the electrical thermostat. For problems such as this, the solution could depend on a simple thermostat adjustment. The settings on your thermostat should be between 120 and 140 degrees.

Try bumping up the thermostat to that higher range to see if the water temperature increases the way you want it to. If this doesn’t do the trick, it’s probably time to call in a professional.

Broken heating element

If nothing but cold water pours from your faucets, the issue could also stem from a broken heating element in your water heater. With a simple call to J&A South Park, you can likely get repairs you’ll need and have your heating functions restored within hours.

The point is, if your water heater has been manufactured within the past eight years, a sudden loss of heating power is probably not due to an all-out heater replacement.

Okay, that said, here are other signs that your water heater might need to be replaced.

Household getting too big

A likely connection between loss of hot water and the need for a replacement arises when a household grows too large for the tank in question. If there are presently more members in your house than there were last year at this time or even six months ago, the demands of your house might just be overstepping the bounds of your current heater. In this instance, it really could be time to think about replacing the water heater with something better outfitted to meet your current household’s size and usage demands.

Rusty water or water inlet valve

If your hot water is rusty, your water heater might rust on the inside and start leaking soon.

True, steel is the toughest substance on the face of the earth, but it has a limitation: rust. When corrosion takes a grip on a steel surface, it gradually expands and eats completely through the steel in select spots; on water pipes and tanks constructed of steel, rust functions as the forewarning for oncoming leaks. On heaters in use past their date of expiration, rusting is unavoidable. Unfortunately, rusting can strike in any water heater, even those that are only between eight and ten years of age.

The trouble is, it’s sometimes difficult to determine whether the rust is originating from the water heater itself or the pipes that run to your faucet. If you notice rust around the water inlet or pressure relief valve on the heater, rust has likely taken hold inside the tank. If that’s the circumstance, the only choice is to swap out the tank as soon as possible. There’s no pathway to rescue an aging water heater once rust enters the picture.

Note: One method to determine whether the rust is stemming from your pipes or the hot water tank is to drain several buckets of hot water from the tank. If the water still comes out rusty by the third bucket full, it’s unquestionably a problem with the tank and not the pipes.

Dog receiving a bath with hot water from a new hot water tank replaced by J&A South Park

Water around the water heater

Take time to inspect the area surrounding your hot water tank. Take a walk around the unit and look for any pooling. If you notice a bit of moisture, there’s most likely a leak inside the tank.

Rusting metal can cause holes to form. The constant heating of the metal can also lead to leaking. The heated metal expands, which could result in cracks in the inner tank. Those cracks can let water seep out of your tank where it can damage the floors, walls, and other surrounding areas. It’s not surprising for aging units to experience slow leaks that worsen over time.

However, before replacing your water heater, be certain no other leaks are coming from either the fittings or connections to the tank. Also, make sure the temperature/pressure overflow pipe is not leaking.

If all the connections and fittings are dry, it’s probably time to replace the water heater.

Questionable strange noises

If it sounds like there may be a thunderstorm or a stampede of safari animals coming from your basement, there’s a good chance something is going on with your water heater. New and unfamiliar sounds coming from your water heater may very well suggest a major crisis inside the unit.

As your tank grows older, residue begins to build on the bottom. When the sediment heats up, it ultimately hardens and will bang against the heater – which can cause a banging, popping, cracking, or rumbling sound. That’s where the loud noises are coming from. With the banging comes the leaking, so it’s best to think about replacing your heater as soon as you start to hear any strange sounds.

Please be aware that the damage that sediment triggers can be reduced by flushing the heater. Simply plan to have your hot water tank flushed annually. Doing so drains the sediment from the tank, which is then able to work more efficiently. With a planned yearly tank flush, the water heater is more apt to keep going for its full life expectancy of roughly ten years. It’s probably best to have a licensed plumbing professional perform the flushing.

If the tank still makes noise once the sediment has been flushed, there is probably a more severe problem with the overall heater that needs attention.

In any case, a healthy water heater shouldn’t be producing those weird sounds, and those heaters that do creak or rumble despite periodic flushing are most likely on the verge of a crack or leak and should be replaced as soon as possible.

Dish washer using hot water from a new hot water tank installed by J&A South Park

Smelly hot water

When you run your hot water, take a whiff to see if you discern any unusual smells. The metal inside the water heater can flake off as it breaks down. This can lead to a metallic smell in your water, particularly the hot water.

Too many repairs and/or a rising heating bill

An excellent way to determine when a water heater needs to be replaced is to keep close track of the total amount of times it needs to be repaired in a year. The water heater presently in your home should not need to be repaired more than twice a year. If this is the case, you’d probably be better off spending that money on a new unit.

Likewise, take a closer look at your heating bills. Hot water accounts for quite a bit of the heating energy used in your home. If the unit starts to work inefficiently and your energy bills reflect this loss, it’s time to check with a professional to see if the most cost-effective path is to replace it.

How old is your water heater?

We’ve been talking about aging water heaters throughout this blog. So, at what age should you be concerned about the tank’s failure?
Nothing lasts forever, least of all a water heater. The problem is, many homeowners are unmindful of when a water heater attains its expiration date. This can lead to major risks when the heater begins acting up simply because it’s too old.

Traditional tank heaters last an average of 10 years. But the specific life of your heater depends on a variety of factors, including proper installation, how much you use it, your maintenance routine, and the quality of the unit. You might squeeze a few more years out of your particular unit, but past the 10-year rule of thumb, you’ll need to at least consider buying a replacement heater.

So, how do I know how old it is?
You can usually discover your water heater’s precise age by eyeballing the serial number on the manufacturer’s sticker near the tank’s top. The initial alphabet letter indicates the month, and the next two numbers typically signify the year, but these stickers can vary. Here’s how it usually works:

  • The first part of the serial number is a letter, such as J. J is the tenth letter in the alphabet, so J stands for the tenth month of the year, October.
  • After the first letter you’ll find two numbers such as “06”. These will stand for the year the water heater was made. “06” would mean 2006, for example.

Moreover, you should also check your manufacturer’s website for complete information and, following our rule of thumb, have your water heater replaced if you find out it’s more than ten years old.

Simply put, the older your water heater is, the greater the chance there is that it will fail you in the near future.

Person cleaning dishes at sink with hot water from a hot water tank replaced by J&A South Park

Advantages of purchasing a new water heater

On the bright side, today’s modern water heaters are far more energy-efficient than older models.

Most of the latest heaters are equipped with foam insulation between the tank and its outer shell that is engineered to prevent heat loss. In addition, new heaters are assembled with an interior glass liner designed to inhibit corrosion.

Call J&A South Park for maintenance, repair and replacement!

Water is one of the most utilized resources in every household. In the majority of these daily usages, water is needed with some degree of warmth. Therefore, when your water heater fails for whatever reason, the issue must be rectified as soon as possible to ensure each household member’s comfort.

In the Pittsburgh region, residents contact J&A South Park for help with their plumbing, electrical, and HVAC needs. Our service crews are there to repair and replace heating units of various models and sizes on the double.

If you see signs that your water heater needs replacing, give us a call today!

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