Like most major appliances in your home, water heaters break down after a period of time and can fail. Ideally it would be best to replace your water heater before it completely stops working or starts causing water damage to your home from large leaks. However, most people have no idea that their water heater is going out or about to fail and unfortunately run into big problems as a result.
Here are four major indicators that your water heater needs replacing and may be on it’s last legs:
1. Rusty or muddy water
If you turn on your hot water and notice that the water coming out from the faucet is a rusty color instead of clear, this is a tell-tale sign that the inside of the water heater tank is starting to corrode. When a water heater needs replacing, usually rust develops around the tank seams, the temperature and pressure relief valve, the water supply lines, or the drain valve. If you notice muddy or sandy water from your faucet, that could be a sign of sediment build up in your tank.
But if you have galvanized piping, you may have rusty pipes. A good test to avoid replacing a functioning water heater is to drain a few five-gallon buckets of hot water out of the water heater. By the third bucket, if the water from your heater is still coming out rusty, then most likely the water heater (not the piping) is at fault.
2. Rumbling and noise
It is important to pay attention to the noises that your water heater makes. While some sound is normal as the water heats, watch out for loud cracks and pops. Most noise issues are caused by sediment build up inside the water tank. As the sediment is heated and reheated, it eventually hardens. When this happens, you can often hear rumbling or banging sounds coming from the water heater as it is heating up. This is a sign that the water heater is at the end of its useful life.
3. Water around the water heater
If you notice standing water or leaking water around the water heater, it is best to call a professional right away since that can be an indication of internal failure in the water heater. There is no quick and easy fix for a leaking hot water tank and you will most likely need to replace your water heater as soon as possible, in order to prevent flooding or further damage to your home.
However, before replacing your water heater, make sure there are no other leaks coming from either the fittings or connections to the tank. Also, make sure the temperature/pressure overflow pipe is not leaking. If all of the connections and fittings are dry, it may be time to replace the water heater.
4. How old is your water heater?
It’s crucial to know the age of your water heater. Find the age by looking for the serial number on the manufacturer’s sticker on the upper portion of the water heater. The serial number contains the date that the water heater was manufactured. But it won’t look the way a date is normally written. Instead, the serial number will have a date code such as “F051052638”.
F is for the month and F is the sixth letter in the alphabet, so it represents the sixth month, June. Next, the first two digits of the serial number are 05, which represents the year, 2005. So this water heater was made in June 2005. Each manufacturer has a similar date code, and they can vary; check the manufacturer’s website to learn more.
Generally, most water heaters that are more than 10 years old should be considered for replacement. If your water heater is in a location that will not cause damage if there is a leak, you can wait until it develops a leak before replacing it, but that really is not recommended. If your water heater is in a location that will cause damage to your home, you should strongly consider replacing it after 10 years (or before, if any of the following symptoms occur).