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Hot water is easy to take for granted — until suddenly you don’t have it. Luckily, water heaters rarely stop working without warning. That’s why it’s important not to ignore the signs your water heater is at the end of its life cycle. You can avoid being uncomfortable, suffering damage from a leak, or the cost of an unexpected breakdown if you learn how to spot the signs that your water heater is going to fail.

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What Causes a Water Heater to Go Bad?

Before diving into the warning signs, it helps to understand the parts inside your unit. A traditional water heater has a water storage tank that’s surrounded by protective linings. In the center is a pipe enclosing the burners to heat the water. They can be configured differently, depending on whether they’re electric or gas-powered. An anode rod attracts corrosive particles to lengthen the life of the unit.

A typical life span for a water heater is between 10 and 15 years. Several factors contribute to what causes a water heater to go out. Anode rods get used up over time. Metal tanks can corrode or leak. Heating elements break or stop working. Sometimes you can replace a part. But if your water heater keeps going out, you might be better off replacing the whole unit, especially if your current unit has been in service for 10 years or more.

Signs Your Water Heater Is Going to Fail

Save money and avoid the worst by following these common signs.

1. Water leaking from the heating tank

Leaks are a sign your water heater is failing. You might see water dripping from the tank or pooling under the unit. Or you may see pipes that drip water.

It’s possible the valves are not fully closed or that connections are loose. These components may need tightening or replacing, which are easy fixes. If the tank is leaking, though, you have no choice but to replace your water heater.


2. Age of the water heater

If your unit is old, be vigilant. Look for a label with an installation date on it. If that’s missing, you can take the brand name and unit serial number and go online to find the date of manufacture.

Getting a new water heater may help save you money. ENERGY STAR ® units are extremely efficient, heating water faster with less energy. Another advantage is that newer units can take up less space.


3. Running out of hot water quickly

If you haven’t flushed your water heater regularly or have a high volume of sediment in your water, those particles could settle in the tank. Accumulated sediment leaves less space for hot water, which is why you run out of it fast. It’s a clear symptom of your water heater going bad.

If the situation goes unfixed for too long, it may no longer be possible to flush the sediment out of the unit, and you may end up with clogged and corroded valves. Then you would have to replace the unit.


4. Inconsistent water temperature in the shower

Another clear sign that your water heater is going out is that your water temperature is inconsistent. If you’re lucky, you might just have a problem with the thermostat, which can be replaced. If heating elements are broken, you have a bigger issue.

Again, consider the age of your unit. It might be cheaper to replace it and enjoy the cost savings you get from a new energy-efficient water heater.


5. Discolored water coming from faucets

Murky or rusty water is another of the common signs your water heater is failing. Water heater tanks have a coating that slows corrosion, but it doesn’t last forever. Once the coating begins to thin, rust forms fast.

Rusty water is one way to know if your hot water tank is going bad. It won’t necessarily harm your health, but it can discolor appliances and damage their parts. And it definitely won’t taste good. If the problem is mild, replacing the anode rods can extend the life of your unit. Consider flushing it, as well.


6. Unusual noises coming from the water heater

If your water heater is making strange sounds, it could be a sign your water heater element is breaking. That’s bad news, but it could mean any number of other things, too. Sediment and mineral deposits could be clogging your system. You might have poor water flow or changing water pressure in your home. Or valves and connections might be loose.

Hire a professional to flush your system and give it a checkup. They’ll let you know if the noises were water heater signs of failing or just a reminder to get it serviced.


7. Lower water pressure

If your home has low water pressure, sediment builds up faster. The difference between hard and soft water is also a factor, as hard water will clog systems faster than soft. If you experience low water pressure from your taps, you may have a significant buildup in your water heater and connections.

Again, it’s one of the signs your water heater is going out, but it can also be a sign you need service. If you take care of it early, you may be able to extend the life of your unit.


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Need more info? Ask the plumbing experts at HB Home, we can help you prevent problems before they happen. Have a heating or air conditioning problem? We have you covered, our HVAC technicians are the best in the business! Call HB Home Today!