Water Heater

The most common water heater problems are:

  1. Inadequate hot water
  2. No hot water
  3. Smelly water
  4. Noisy water heater
  5. Leaking water tank
  6. Low water pressure
  7. High energy bills
  8. Slow heating
  9. Discolored water
  10. Limescale buildup

Picture this: You've just returned home from the gym, looking forward to a relaxing, hot shower. But as soon as you turn on the faucet, you're greeted with an unpleasant odor and ice-cold water instead of the soothing warmth you expected.

Water heaters are essential for your home, providing warm showers, clean dishes, and sanitized laundry. When water heaters malfunction, it can disrupt your daily routine.

Some of the most common signs that a water heater is not working are a strange odor, a leaking water tank, low water pressure, and a noisy water heater. To address the situation promptly, it's crucial to understand common water heater problems and their causes.

This blog post will discuss different water heating problems and provide insights and practical troubleshooting tips to help navigate any water heater issues.

1. Too Little Hot Water

A water tank that produces too little hot water is just one of the many common water heater problems you may encounter. This issue is often caused by a variety of factors, such as sediment buildup, a faulty heating element, or an incorrectly set thermostat.

Sediment is a layer of dirt and minerals that can accumulate at the bottom of the water tank over time, interfering with the heating process. It creates a barrier between the heating element and the water in the tank, making it harder for the heating element to transfer heat to the water.

How to fix: To troubleshoot this issue, drain and flush the tank to remove the sediment buildup. This helps clear the pathway for the heating element to efficiently heat the water, thereby improving the performance of your water heater.

2. No Hot Water

When you turn on the hot water faucet but only get cold water, it's likely because the pilot light — the small flame that ignites the gas burner, which heats the water — in your gas-powered water heater has gone out. Several issues could cause the pilot light to go out. One common culprit is a faulty thermocouple, a safety device that detects whether the pilot light is on. If the thermocouple malfunctions, it may shut off the gas supply to the pilot light, causing it to go out.

Another possible cause is a malfunctioning pilot control valve, which regulates the flow of gas to the pilot light. If this valve is faulty, it may not supply enough gas to keep the pilot light lit.

How to fix: Follow the manufacturer's instructions carefully to relight the pilot light if you have a gas-powered water heater. If the pilot light continues to go out or if you have an electric water heater and you suspect a faulty heating element, it's best to contact a Mr. Rooter Plumbing® professional for water heater repair or replacement.

3. Smelly Water

One of the most common problems with water heaters is a strange odor in the water. Over time, bacteria can grow in the warm water tank, especially if the tank is not regularly flushed out. This can lead to a foul odor in the hot water coming from your faucets.

How to fix: Flush the tank and fill it with a solution of water and hydrogen peroxide. Allow the solution to sit in the tank for two hours or so, and then flush with clear water. If the tank is still smelly, it's best to call a plumbing professional.

4. Noisy Water Heater

When your water heater starts making unusual noises — like popping, banging, or rumbling — it could be a sign of underlying issues. These noises are often caused by the buildup of sediment or minerals inside the water tank.

Over time, sediment settles at the bottom of the tank, and when the heating element heats the water, it creates steam bubbles that rise through the sediment layer. As the bubbles escape, they cause the sediment to move and create noise, similar to the sound of boiling water in a pot.

How to fix: The first step is to drain the water heater. This is a fairly easy procedure and something you should do about once a year as regular maintenance. Your water tank may also be making noise if the heating element is starting to burn out. Have a service professional look at the heating element and replace it if necessary.

10 Common water heater problems

5. Leaking Water Tank

The tank is the main component of your water heater, where the water is stored and heated. Over time, the tank can develop cracks or corrosion due to age, wear and tear, or mineral buildup from hard water. These cracks or corrosion weaken the tank's structure, causing it to leak water.

A leaking water tank is a significant issue because it can lead to water damage in your home, such as flooding, water stains, or mold growth. A leaking tank can also result in decreased efficiency and higher energy bills as the water heater works harder to maintain the desired temperature with the constant loss of water.

How to fix: To fix a leaking water heater, inspect all the connections around the tank, including the inlet and outlet pipes and the pressure relief valve. If you notice any loose connections, carefully tighten them using appropriate tools. Be cautious not to overtighten, as this could cause further damage. At the first sign of a leak, contact your local Mr. Rooter Plumbing for a leak repair.

6. Low Water Pressure

Low water pressure is when the water flow from your faucets or showerheads is weaker than usual. This can be frustrating, as it can affect your ability to carry out everyday tasks like showering or washing dishes effectively.

One common reason for low water pressure is sediment buildup or mineral deposits in the pipes leading to your faucets or showerheads. Over time, these deposits can accumulate and restrict the flow of water, resulting in decreased water pressure.

Low water pressure can also be related to issues with your water heater. If your water heater is not functioning properly, it may not be able to heat water efficiently and the sediment buildup will lead to reduced water pressure.

How to fix: To troubleshoot low water pressure related to your water heater, check for any visible signs of damage or leaks in the water heater unit. Additionally, flushing the water heater tank to remove sediment buildup can help improve water flow and pressure. If the issue persists, it's best to consult a service professional to inspect and address any underlying problems.

7. Increase in Energy Bills

Severe sediment buildup insulates the heating element, making it harder to heat the water. This extra work means it uses more energy, resulting in higher energy bills. There are various ways to check for sediment symptoms in the water heater. If you notice rusty or dark red-colored water, the water is taking too long to heat up, and your energy bills are skyrocketing, these could be signs of sediment deposition in the water heater.

Another reason for high energy bills could be a faulty thermostat or heating element in electric water heaters or a malfunctioning pilot light or burner in gas water heaters. These issues can cause the water heater to run longer than necessary, using more energy in the process.

How to fix: Identify the type of water heater you have. Drain and flush the water heater to remove sediment buildup. If you have an electric water heater, check the thermostat settings and inspect the heating element for any damage. For gas water heaters, ensure the pilot light is lit properly and the burner is functioning correctly.

If you're not comfortable doing these checks yourself, it's best to call a service professional to inspect and repair any issues with your water heater.

8. Slow Heating

When water takes a long time to heat up, it's often a sign of an issue with your water heater. One common reason for this is sediment buildup in the tank. As we mentioned earlier, sediment buildup insulates the heating element from the water. This insulation makes it harder for the heater to warm up the water quickly, resulting in slower heating times.

Another potential cause could be a faulty heating element, particularly in electric water heaters. If the heating element isn't working properly, it won't generate enough heat to warm up the water efficiently. Additionally, thermostat problems can contribute to slow heating. If the thermostat is set too low or is malfunctioning, it may not signal the heater to heat the water to the desired temperature.

How to fix: Try adjusting the thermostat on your water heater to a higher temperature setting. You might also consider flushing the tank to remove any sediment buildup, which can improve heating efficiency.

9. Discolored Water

Discoloured Water

Discolored water — which appears rusty, brown, or cloudy — often occurs when there's a buildup of sediment or rust in the water heater tank. This buildup can happen over time due to minerals and impurities in the water supply.

Discoloration is a common sign of sediment accumulation in the water heater tank, which can hinder the heating process and reduce the water heater's efficiency. As a result, you may experience issues such as insufficient hot water or fluctuating water temperatures.

How to fix: Flush the water heater tank to remove sediment buildup and impurities, improve water quality, and restore the heater's efficiency. If the issue persists, consult a service professional for further assessment and repairs.

10. Limescale Buildup

Limescale buildup occurs when minerals like calcium and magnesium found in hard water accumulate over time. These minerals can form a crusty deposit called limescale on the surfaces of appliances, including water heaters.

Limescale buildup can occur on the heating element or inside the tank. The buildup acts as insulation, making it harder for the heating element to transfer heat to the water. As a result, the water heater has to work harder and longer to heat the water. This leads to increased energy consumption and potentially reduces the lifespan of the heater.

Limescale buildup can also lead to issues like reduced water flow and pressure. You may also hear strange noises coming from the water heater as it struggles to heat the water.

How to fix: To prevent limescale buildup and related water heater problems, it's important to address hard water issues by installing a water softener or using descaling agents regularly. These measures help reduce the mineral content in the water, minimizing limescale buildup and ensuring the efficient operation of your water heater.

Water Heater Problems FAQ

Understanding common water heater issues and knowing the reasons for water heater maintenance can help you address problems promptly and avoid costly repairs. Let’s look at some of the most commonly asked questions about water heaters.

What is the most common problem with a water heater?

The most common problem with a water heater is sediment buildup. Over time, minerals and debris accumulate at the bottom of the tank, leading to reduced heating efficiency and potential issues like clogs, corrosion, and even leaks. Regular maintenance, such as flushing the tank to remove sediment, can help prevent this common problem and ensure optimal performance from your water heater.

How do you diagnose a water heater problem?

To diagnose a water heater problem, check for common signs such as inadequate hot water, strange noises, or leaks around the tank. You can also inspect the thermostat settings to ensure they're correctly adjusted and examine the heating elements for any signs of damage or malfunction.

If you're unsure about diagnosing the issue yourself, it's best to contact a service professional who can assess the situation and recommend the appropriate course of action.

What are the first signs of a water heater going bad?

The first signs of a water heater going bad are often a decrease in hot water temperature or a lack of hot water altogether. Additionally, you may notice unusual noises, such as popping or rumbling, coming from the tank, indicating sediment buildup or other internal issues. Visible signs of leaks or corrosion on the tank are also red flags that your water heater may be failing.

Knowing when to call a professional and when to attempt a repair yourself can save you money on maintaining your water tank. Following some water heater maintenance tips can also make a big difference.

Call on Us for Plumbing Services You Can Trust!

Whether you need help with residential or commercial water heater repair, Mr. Rooter Plumbing has everything you need to get your building's plumbing in top shape. Our licensed plumbing experts are courteous, professional, and thoroughly trained to handle plumbing services of all kinds. We will always show you your options and let you make an informed decision. You can reach us anytime and any day to schedule your plumbing services.

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