How to prevent most common water heater problems
The water heater is probably the most expensive component of your home’s plumbing system. That’s why it’s important to diagnose any issues in time. Fixing minor problems will be much cheaper than dealing with a huge mess because you waited too long or didn’t mind the tell-tale signs. The only exception is a leaking tank – that is a major issue with no other solution than replacing the water heater.
Luckily, if you get familiar with other water heater problems, you’ll be able to react appropriately and in time to avoid huge expenses and upgrade your energy efficiency.
Not enough hot water
Running out of hot water just when you need it most can be really frustrating. There are a few causes to this problem:
- The thermostat may not be working properly;
- The water heater is simply too small. In this case, consider getting a bigger one or even a tankless water heater. They are expensive but you won’t have to worry about having enough hot water.
Too hot or too cold – water temperature issues
Most of the time, it just means the thermostat is set a bit too high or too low. Try adjusting it until you get the temperature you want. In case it doesn’t help, then:
- A faulty thermostat may be causing it. You may need to replace it or replace a heating element;
- There is sediment that built up in the tank. Drain the water heater, clean it out and then refill it.
If the water was too hot and resetting the thermostat didn’t help, then you need to be more attentive. If steam or excessively hot water springs out of the faucets, or there are boiling sounds inside the heater, then the heater isn’t shutting off at the right temperature. The problem may be with the temperature-pressure (TP) relief valve.
It’s important to note that this is quite dangerous because excessively hot water or steam can hurt people and the heater could rupture. The smartest and safest thing is to ask for professional help at this point. Also, there’s no use in you replacing the valve because it needs to be installed perfectly to work and not cause a similar issue. This sensitive job is the one for hot water service experts who will identify the problem and won’t let it happen again. What you can do until they arrive is to turn down the temperature and let the water cool down.
No hot water at all
This can be very frustrating – you have a water heater that doesn’t work at all. In the majority of cases, the energy source, whether it’s electricity or gas, isn’t producing heat.
Fixing the problem will depend on the type of water heater. Sometimes it’s hard to determine which type your water heater belongs to because they look very similar. However, they heat the water differently and their equipment differs. If you’re not sure, look for a flue at the top of the heater (it’s a round, chimney pipe). If you find it, then you have a gas heater because gas appliances must vent their combustion gasses through a flue. Also, a gas water heater has a burner at its bottom (looking like a gas cooktop), and it’s usually placed behind a metal door. On the other hand, an electric water heater has an electrical hookup connected to the circuit breaker in an electrical panel. When you identify the type of water heater, inform a professional and let them deal with it.
Discolored or smelly hot water
If you notice the water has a strange smell, identify the source – the water or the heater. If both the hot and the cold-water smells, then the problem is the source water. Copper, iron and other minerals can lead to discoloration or unpleasant smell. In this case, install a house water filter or a water softener. In only the hot water smells, then there’s probably a reaction between the hot water and the anode rod. The water should run freely for a couple of minutes. If you smell rotten eggs, flush the hot-water tank. If that doesn’t help, then it’s best to replace the anode rod with a flexible one instead of a long, rigid rod. It’s best to call a professional to do that.
In case you smell the garlic, then the pilot may not be working. Turn the gas valve control off and wait until the smell disappears. Turn the pilot light on again. If the smell persists, turn off the gas supply valve at once and call a plumber.
Your water heater is your biggest investment when it comes to plumbing appliances. No need to highlight the importance of keeping it in good condition and pay attention to even the slightest signs of issues. By being diligent, you are ensuring your safety and preventing huge and unnecessary expenses from occurring.
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