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5 Water Heater Issues to Look for Before Winter

There simply isn't anything worse than having to take a cold shower during cold, dark winter days. Here are five common water heater issues you can look for and how to solve them, so you don't get caught taking a cold shower. 

1. Sediment Build-Up

Dissolved minerals and sediment, such as small amounts of sand, will enter your heater when new water flows in. This debris will settle at the bottom of the tank. Most water heater burners are at the base of the tank.

If this sediment builds up enough over time, it will interfere with the efficiency of your heater. If you are only getting lukewarm water or low hot water pressure, this is one of the common causes. 

To solve this, you can flush out your tank. First, you will shut off the power supply to the tank. Next, run a hot faucet for 10 to 15 minutes to lower the temperature inside the tank. Finally, close the cold water valve and attach a garden hose to drain the leftover water into a drain. 

You will also want to test and inspect your pressure relief valve. The pressure relief valve prevents the buildup of rust and corrosion. To do this, lift the valve and see if it also lifts the brass steam. Hot water should flow from your drainpipe. This means the valve is working correctly. 

Similarly, you will need to inspect your anode rod. The anode rod attracts elements like calcium and other minerals, which can stick to the inside of your tank and cause corrosion. Make sure to check this before every season and replace it if necessary. 

2. Water Leaks

Water leaks are a common problem that can cause multiple issues for your water heating system. You should regularly inspect your tank for leaks. However, late fall is a good time to ensure you do not run into issues during winter. 

The large difference in temperature inside and outside the system is a common cause of leaks. Check to see if your system is leaking from the top of the tank, or is it leaking from the pipe fittings? 

If the tank is leaking, you are going to need a new system. If this is the case, turn off the water at your meter to prevent water damage or wastage and call an emergency plumber

3. Broken Heating Elements

You are more likely to have your heating system break down in winter because that is the time it has to work hardest to warm up the water. This can be the trigger for some elements or heating coils to break or wear out. 

It goes without saying that these heating elements need to be properly maintained to get their best performance and fullest life. Unfortunately, this is something many people neglect.

We recommend getting a plumber to inspect your system before winter sets in. You can test your heating elements yourself, but you will need to familiarize yourself with the process first. You will need a multitester, which is inexpensive and can be found in most hardware stores.

If you are testing yourself at home, be aware that heating systems typically run on 240-volt currents, and a shock will be incredibly painful. Make sure the system is turned off before inspecting it.  

4. Frozen Pipes

Pipes that are outside the house or exposed are susceptible to freezing, especially in the sections that are the first three feet entering and exiting the hot water tank. Even if the pipes do not freeze, water that has to travel long distances outside your home will not come out at an optimal temperature. 

To solve this, you should insulate your pipes. Foam or fiberglass pipe coverings are popular and affordable and can be made DIY if you like. If you find your pipes are freezing, you can use an old towel and wrap your exposed pipes to reduce the impact of the cold on your water supply.

Similarly, if you have an external tank, or if your tank is located in a colder room, insulating your tank can improve hot water quality. Pre-cut insulation jackets are easy enough to find and install yourself. 

This will also help reduce your energy costs, as the better insulated your tank and pipes are, the less power your tank needs to keep the water supply warm. 

You can also turn your water temperature up during the cold months to ensure that you are getting good hot water. Most systems sit at 140 degrees. Increasing the temperature to 145 or 150 is acceptable to help keep your hot water supply running. Just remember this will cost more. 

5. Faulty Parts

This may seem obvious, but faulty parts are a common cause of hot water problems. Like the heating elements, they are more likely to break in winter when they are being worked hardest. 

Hot water systems are made of numerous parts, each with an important job. If any of these fail, it will compromise the whole system and cause your heating to be less efficient. 

If you have an electric system check the thermostat. If you have a gas heating system, check the pilot light, pilot control valve, and thermocouple. You should also have your plumber inspect your system regularly as they can spot issues you can't.

Contact Your Plumber

Whilst you can solve many of your heating issues yourself, having your system regularly inspected and serviced is the best way to ensure you do not run into any issues. 

Having your plumber maintain your heating system will save you time and money as your system will last longer and major repairs, and the inconvenience of them, will not be needed.

Solving Water Heater Issues

The last thing you need this winter is water heater issues. Fortunately, you can take action now to prevent or reduce hot water issues this winter. If you follow our five-step guide, you will prevent most issues and fix the ones that do arise. Of course, having your plumber service your system is always the smartest option. To find out more, contact us today

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