In our previous blog, we discussed the importance of regular water heater maintenance and upkeep. But, how do you know if your water heater is having problems, and—if it is—what should you do about it? In this article, we’ll review common water heater problems and when to bring in a professional plumber in San Leandro.
At ABC Cooling, Heating & Plumbing, we’re here for all your water heater repair, upkeep, and replacement needs. Call us for fast, expert service here in San Leandro and the East Bay!
What are the warning signs of impending water heater trouble?
While there are some water heaters that just stop working, many water heaters exhibit symptoms and warning signs ahead of them failing. Here are some of the potential signs of trouble to look out for:
Most standard water heaters last about 10-12 years before they need to be replaced with a new unit. Tankless water heaters generally last about double that, 18-20 years.
Where your water heater ends up inside of that range can depend on both upkeep and luck. With the right water heater maintenance—including the replacement of the anode rod about 5-6 years in—you can typically extend that lifespan by a few years. But, generally, homeowners should be starting to prepare for the possibility of replacing the water heater by year 8, and keeping an even closer eye on the system after year 10. After year 12, every year is borrowed time.
Less hot water
It’s not your imagination: the water may be getting colder. As water heaters start to fail, they often become unable to keep up with the hot water demands put on them by your family and your home like they once did. This is true even if your family’s hot water use has essentially remained unchanged over the past decade.
It’s not that the capacity of your water heater has been diminished, but that the heating element is not able to heat the water as effectively as it once did due to mineral buildup inside of the tank. Instead of a tank full of properly heated water, the water supply is lukewarm, resulting in colder water at the shower head or sink faucet. Regularly scheduled water heater flushes can help alleviate this problem, but hard deposit buildup is just a part of aging for most standard water heaters.
Most homeowners first spot water heater trouble in the form of a puddle of water underneath or around the tank. This typically indicates one of two problems—both of which should be addressed by a plumbing expert:
- Excess Pressure: As mentioned in our water heater maintenance blog, the water heater pressure relief valve is designed to open and release water when excess pressure builds inside of the tank. If water is discharging from this valve on a regular basis, something is clearly wrong with the water heater and its temperature setting. Over time, excess heat and pressure in the tank puts additional strain on it, which can lead to the problem outlined in the bullet below.
- Tank Leaks: Once it has finished “eating” through the anode rod, corrosion typically attacks the water heater’s interior tank lining and walls. The end result are small cracks and leaks that form, releasing small amounts of water onto the floor below the water heater. However, given that your water heater is pressurized, even the smallest of these leaks could suddenly burst open, releasing gallons of water into your basement, garage, or utility closet.
Here’s the bottom-line: if you see water on the floor beneath your water heater, don’t just assume it’s nothing. Call in one of the professional plumbers at ABC Cooling, Heating & Plumbing and have us inspect your water heater to ensure that it isn’t on the verge of a catastrophic tank burst.
Other signs of trouble
In addition to all the warning signs listed above, call our plumbers if you:
- hear any strange sounds coming from your water heater,
- notice a significant change in your water quality,
- or cannot get your pressure-relief valve to discharge hot water during an annual test.
These are all signs that your water heater may need to be repaired or replaced.
When in doubt, call a professional
While there are some aspects of water heater maintenance that homeowners can perform themselves (such as an annual flush), all water heater troubleshooting and repairs should be left to an experienced, licensed plumber with professional-grade tools. DIY water heater repair is dangerous and can often make the initial problem far worse.
For example, the hot water in the tank represents a scald risk for untrained people working on the heater or its valves, and the outcome of improperly completed maintenance and repairs could be a flooded home. It’s just not worth it: call a plumber.
Need a water heater specialist here in San Leandro? Call us at ABC!
We’re your go-to professionals for water heater repair and replacement services here in San Leandro and the East Bay. If you are experiencing water heater performance or efficiency issues—or have noticed the signs of trouble outlined above—call us for fast, reliable plumbing repair service from our experienced plumbers.