Homeowners have many responsibilities, and ensuring the water heater functions properly is one of the most significant. Without hot water, it’s difficult to maintain everyday life in the home. Most of us take things like hot showers for granted; but when they go, we quickly realize how important the water heater really is.
There are many types of water heaters, but for this article, we’ll focus on the traditional tank variety, since they're the most common. Tank water heaters are designed to both heat and store hot water so that it’s available for use when needed. Tanks are insulated to keep the water warm.
On the top of your tank, you should see the water supply and delivery pipes. The supply pipe feeds cold water into the bottom of the tank through the dip tube. The delivery pipe carries the heated water out of the top. When you turn on the hot water tap, cool water enters your water heater tank through the dip tube. Sensors are triggered by the drop in temperature, and the heating element kicks in.
All tank water heaters come with a special valve that’s designed to open if the temperature or pressure inside the tank becomes too high. This valve, also known as the T&P valve, is connected to a pipe that runs away from the tank.
Water heaters typically last between 10 and 15 years. The primary reason for failure is corrosion within the steel tank. Once the tank rusts enough to create a hole, it will need to be replaced.
1. Watch Your T&P Pipe
It’s a good idea to keep a bucket under the end of your T&P pipe to check if it has been releasing water. Don’t make the mistake of connecting the pipe to a drain, or you might miss out on noticing one of the major warning signs that a breakdown is occurring. This pipe shouldn’t drain unless there’s a problem, so if you start finding water, you’ll know the temperature or pressure is off.
2. Check Your Anode Rod
Water heater tanks come with a special anode rod that’s designed to corrode instead of the steel tank. Once this rod corrodes enough to break away, the tank is in trouble. Regularly flushing the water heater will slow down the corrosion process, but all tanks fail eventually. If you watch for the signs, you’ll be able to replace your water heater in advance and avoid getting stuck without hot water. Experts recommend you check and replace your anode rod at least once a year.
3. Listen for Sounds
Every water heater is a bit different, and all of them make their own noises. However, your heater shouldn’t be making loud pops, cracks, or banging sounds. If you notice a sudden difference in the sounds your heater is making, something is wrong. Very loud noises typically indicate that mineral deposits have built up within the system.
4. Look at the Water
The quality of the water coming from your faucet may provide clues about the health of your water heater. If it appears to be muddy or full of rust, it’s time to begin shopping for a new heater. Rust indicates that severe corrosion has taken place, and it’s not likely that your heater will last very long after reaching that point.
5. Smell the Water
It takes quite a bit of build-up to affect the look of the water. You might be able to catch the problem earlier by smelling or tasting the water. If it tastes metallic, you likely have corrosion.
6. Examine for Leaks
Any major leaks are a sign that water heater replacement might be needed in the near future. If you see water leaking and forming puddles around your heater, it’s important to handle the problem immediately. Be sure to shut off power and gas before you do any work on the unit to avoid the risk of electrocution. When in doubt, it’s always best to get help from the professionals.
If you need help determining whether or not you need to invest in a new water heater, contact the professionals at Catons Plumbing, Drains & Water Restoration today. Unless you have a background in plumbing or electrical work, always enlist professional help in order to install any type of water heater. We have experience inspecting, fixing and replacing water heaters for folks in the greater Baltimore metropolitan area and surrounding counties.