How to Know When a Water Heater Can Be Repaired and When It Needs to be Replaced.
A water heater should last 8 to 12 years. Most water heaters have a warranty from the manufacturer which covers the system for about 6 years, and they can usually last another 6 years beyond the term of the warranty.
A new water heater can be expensive. Water heater repair, if possible, can be much cheaper. When you have a problem with your water heater, it is important to recognize the signs: can it be repaired or must it be replaced?
Follow these guidelines to determine what is wrong with your water heater, how to repair it if it can be repaired, and when you will have to replace your unit.
Many older water heaters can be repaired. Any parts you might need in order to do these repairs can be purchased at your local hardware store or plumbing supply business.
Here are five situations where your water heater can be repaired rather than replaced, if you can recognize the symptoms and if you know a little about plumbing and can do the repair yourself.
Water Leaking Due To Overheating: If you find that your water heater is overheating, this may be caused by either the thermostat or the relief valve. Generally, when the unit overheats, the relief valve should safely release any excess boiling water, which will then allow the pressure in the tank to be reduced. The easiest way to solve this problem is by turning down your thermostat a few degrees. If this doesn’t work, replace the relief valve as well.
Water Smells Foul. If you notice that the water in the tank starts to emit a foul odor, this usually means that the water has a bacterial infection. This can sometimes be caused by contaminates in your municipal water system getting into the water heater.
These contaminants live off the hydrogen gas that is always emitted as the anode rod works to prevent rust. You will recognize the presence of this problem when you smell “rotten eggs”. Flushing out the water tank usually resolves the issue. If you have a regular 40-gallon residential tank, add 2 pints of 3 percent hydrogen peroxide solution to fresh water.
Pour this solution into the tank and let it sit for 2-3 hours. Then refill the tank with water. If this doesn’t solve the problem, you will need to insert a zinc alloy anode rod into the tank. This reduces the amount of hydrogen in the tank.
Water not Hot: If the water heater is not doing its job and is not heating the water, check the unit’s pilot light. If the pilot is lit and stays lit, you may need to replace the the gas coupler to the main heater. But if the pilot light refuses to stay lit no matter how many times you try to light it, it may be a problem with the water heater control valve.
If you have an electric-powered water heating system, you may need to replace either the upper heating element or the thermostat. Both of these are relatively simple tasks which you can do yourself.
Noises Coming from Inside the water heater: If you hear noises coming from inside the tank, these noises are an indication that there is build-up of sediment inside the tank. The best way to remove this sediment is by flushing out the tank with fresh water. Then remove and thoroughly clean the electric elements. This usually stops the noises and solves the problem.
Water is Brown or Rust-Colored. Most water heaters are installed with a sacrificial anode rod. This rod slowly dissolves over time, preventing rust from developing in the interior of the tank. When the anode rod is completely dissolved, you will notice rust in your tap water and in the shower etc. If you replace the anode rod, it will usually solve the problem of rust in the water.
Please Note: When a water heater starts to leak from the bottom of the tank, this is almost always a sign that the unit cannot be repaired and will need to be replaced, especially if the water is rust-colored or brown. Corrosion over time is the main cause of this problem. Since water heaters are made of metal, and water rusts metal, there is no way to avoid this from happening and no way to repair it once it happens: you will need a new water heater.
If you need advice on selecting the right water heater or you want your current water heater repaired, call Mr. Speedy Plumbing. We are certified distributors and installers of the major brands of water heaters, including Rheem and Bradford White. We carry a large inventory of water heaters in our warehouse, and can install your new water the same day you call us.