People rely on water heaters constantly throughout the day to the point where they take them for granted. Despite how often you use hot water, you probably don’t give their water heater much thought until it suddenly stops working for some reason. Annual maintenance can definitely help your water heater to continue functioning for longer, but the time will eventually come when you need to have it replaced. With that in mind, here are some of the different ways that can help you tell when you need to replace your water heater.

Your Water Heater Is More Than 8-12 Years Old

Plumbing experts always recommend that you replace your water heater when it starts nearing the end of its expected lifespan. For traditional gas water heaters, the average lifespan is typically around eight to 12 years, while electric units will usually last for 10 to 15 years.

As water heaters age, they tend to suffer from more issues and can start using lots more energy. Still, the bigger issue is the potential for an older traditional water heater to develop a catastrophic leak and flood your home.

Lack of Hot Water

This one should be fairly obvious. If your water heater no longer produces hot water, there is definitely some issue with it. One common reason that this happens is that the heating elements inside the unit have worn out. While it is possible to replace the heating elements, it generally doesn’t make sense unless the unit is only a few years old and still under warranty. If not, it’s usually best to just replace the entire unit.

This being said, a lack of hot water doesn’t necessarily indicate that your water heater has failed and needs to be replaced. This problem can also occur because the pilot light is malfunctioning or simply because the pilot light has gone out and needs to be relit. It can also happen if the flow of gas or electricity is interrupted for any reason.

There is also a chance that you have simply used up all of the hot water in the tank and need to wait for it to reheat. Still, if the problem persists and you are without hot water for more than a few hours, it is time to contact a professional plumber and have your water heater inspected.

Water Doesn’t Get Hot Enough

When the heating elements first begin to wear out, it often leads to the water no longer getting as hot as it used to. Should this happen, you will want to start thinking about replacing the unit before it completely fails.

The same issue can also occur if the temperature control fails or begins to wear out. In either case, the first thing to do is check what temperature you have the unit set to, as there is always a chance that it somehow got turned down.

Your water heater should always be set somewhere between 120 and 140 degrees for safety. Anything below 120 degrees is too cold and could allow potentially dangerous bacteria to begin growing inside the tank. If the water is above 140 degrees, it creates a much greater risk of scalding.

If your water is too cold, you can try to turn the unit up to the next highest setting and wait a few hours to check the water temperature again. If this doesn’t eliminate the issue and your water is still not hot enough, you will need to have the unit inspected. If you’re lucky, the problem may be related to a faulty temperature control, which is fairly easy to replace.

Water Leaks

A small amount of water near the base of your water heater is sometimes nothing to worry about. This can happen if the temperature or pressure inside the tank rises too high. When this occurs, it will trigger the relief valve and release a small amount of water to reduce the pressure.

If you notice lots of water pooling up around your water heater, this is a sure sign that there is some issue. This most commonly means that the tank is leaking due to corrosion, and this is something you need to get taken care of immediately before the tank fails completely and all the water comes flooding out.

The water could also mean that there is a leak in the cold-water pipe feeding into the tank or the hot water supply coming out of it. If this is the case, the solution is as simple as having one of our plumbers replace the part of the pipe where it is leaking or tighten the fittings.

Long Recovery Times

If you don’t usually use a lot of hot water, you may notice that your water heater isn’t working as it should until there is a high demand for hot water. Whenever you use any hot water, it is drawn out of the top of the tank. The cold water entering the unit flows through a long pipe out into the bottom of the tank. It takes time for this cold water to heat.

However, using a large amount of hot water quickly can fully drain the tank. In this case, you will usually need to wait for the water to fully reheat. The time this takes is referred to as the recovery time, and it can typically take anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours, depending on the size of the tank. If you find yourself having to wait longer than this for hot water, this is a good sign that your water heater needs to be either repaired or replaced.

Knocking and Other Unusual Noises

Older water heaters often make loud banging or knocking noises whenever they are heating. This is caused by mineral sediment that builds up inside the bottom of the tank over time. Whenever the unit is heating, it creates small air bubbles that rise to the top of the tank. When there is lots of sediment buildup, the air bubbles can disturb the sediment and cause pieces of it to knock against the sides of the tank.

Sediment buildup is one of the main reasons that most water heaters fail, as it can create hot spots that weaken the tank, speed up the rate of corrosion and cause the heating elements to wear out more quickly. This is why you should always have your water heater tank flushed once a year, as this will remove most of the sediment.

If you don’t have the tank flushed, the sediment can build up to the point where you won’t be able to flush it out. If your water heater constantly makes loud knocking sounds, this is most likely the case, and you should start thinking about replacing it.

Hot Water Looks Rusty or Discolored

If your hot water starts looking brown, red or rusty, this indicates that there is major corrosion in the tank. Unfortunately, there is really nothing you can do to eliminate this problem. This means that you should immediately start looking at a replacement before the corrosion gets back enough that the tank starts leaking.

Professional Water Heater and Plumbing Services

At Plumbtree Plumbing & Rooter, we are your local water heater experts, and we repair, install and maintain both traditional and tankless units. We also work on gas lines, sewer systems and all plumbing fixtures. If you’re experiencing any sewer or drain issues, we also offer drain cleaning, rooting and hydro-jetting services for customers in San Jose and throughout Silicon Valley. To learn more about your options for a water heater replacement, give Plumbtree Plumbing & Rooter a call today.

Josh Gibson

Hi, I’m Josh. I’ve been around plumbing my whole life. When I was 5-6 years old my family built a home where I did a lot of the sanding of copper pipe and definitely some playing in the mud. Plumbing is a major part of my family as I am a fourth-generation plumber. The skills I bring to the job are a good technical knowledge of plumbing and code requirements. I am often complimented on my hands-on problem-solving skills.
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