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5 Hot Water Heater Problems & What to Do About Them

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5 Hot Water Heater Problems & What to Do About Them

Your water heater is essential for bathing, laundry, and dishwashing—so when it malfunctions, you need to know what’s wrong and how to fix it. The sooner you identify and solve the problem, the less likely you’ll be to experience emergencies that could cost you more money or leave your home without hot water for the long term.

Action Furnace has performed water heater installations and services for countless Albertans. Below, our team explores five major causes of hot water heater failures so that you can spot the signs of these problems and take action ASAP.

Not Enough Hot Water

Inadequate hot water disrupts daily activities like bathing, cleaning, and laundry, negatively affecting your lifestyle and impeding your daily routines.

Why It Happens

This could stem from a miscalibrated thermostat or an undersized water heater. Tankless water heaters produce hot water on demand and don’t run out of hot water like hot water tanks do—but they can still suffer from thermostat issues.

Warning Signs

  • Water is lukewarm or fails to heat.
  • The hot water supply is rapidly depleted.

What to Do

Double-check your thermostat settings and adjust them if they aren’t accurate. If that doesn’t help, get in touch with our team—we’ll be happy to inspect your water heater and let you know if it needs additional service.

Strange Noises

Noises emanating from your water heater aren’t always a problem, but if they’re particularly loud or persistent, they could be signs of an impending emergency.

Why It Happens

Often, such noises result from sediment buildup in the tank—which can lead to leaks down the road. Tankless units can also make strange noises if there’s a buildup of scale inside the unit, or if there are issues with the heating element. Regular descaling (as per the manufacturer’s guidelines) can help avoid this.

Warning Signs

  • Popping, rumbling, or hissing sounds while operating.
  • Banging noises upon startup or shutdown.

What to Do

For gas water heaters, a certain degree of noise can be expected—but this is usually a quiet hum instead of a disruptive sound. If you notice your unit making the noises above, the best thing to do is turn it off until our professionals can perform a thorough inspection.

Leaking water near base of hot water heater tank

Leaking Water Heater

Leaks can cause structural damage to your home, lead to potential mold growth, and significantly diminish the efficiency of your water heater.

Why It Happens

Leaks can happen for lots of reasons, but the two most common ones are internal tank corrosion or a problem with your water heater’s pressure relief valve. Leaks are possible with tankless models, too, and can arise from issues like a loose connection or a problem with the heating element.

Warning Signs

  • Pooling water around the base of the heater.
  • Moisture or rust along the tank’s body.

What to Do

Leaks can create slipping or electrical hazards, and identifying their causes isn’t always easy. Furthermore, a leaking tank generally needs to be replaced outright, so it’s better to prevent leaks in the first place than to try dealing with them after they’ve reached this stage.

If your tank is leaking, turn off your water supply and contact us. We’ll be able to tell you whether it’s possible to repair your hot water heater or if you’ll need to consider buying a new one.

See Also: Can I Turn Off My Hot Water Heater?

Discoloured water coming out of tap in home with hot water heater problems

Discoloured or Smelly Water

Water quality is vital for health and safety, and issues with it can signal deteriorating components or bacterial contamination.

Why It Happens

Discoloration or odor may stem from a corroded anode rod or bacterial growth. In a tankless model, this may occur as the result of a problem with your pipes.

Warning Signs

  • Water has a reddish-brown tint or murky appearance.
  • Unpleasant or metallic odor from the hot water.

What to Do

Flushing the tank might temporarily resolve this, but any components that have deteriorated will need to be replaced to prevent the problem from recurring. Ensure your safety and the quality of your home’s hot water by having one of our technicians evaluate and service the unit.

See Also: How Do I Clean My Water Heater?

Frequent Cycling

A water heater that constantly cycles on and off is consuming unnecessary energy, which will inflate utility bills and wear down your unit prematurely.

Why It Happens

Frequent cycling can be related to thermostat issues, electrical faults, or improper tank size (unless it’s a tankless system).

Warning Signs

  • The unit repeatedly switches on and off, regardless of demand.
  • Inconsistent water temperatures.

What to Do

A broken thermostat, faulty electrical infrastructure, and a poorly sized tank are all issues that require professional attention. Contact our team for help.

Frequently Asked Questions about Hot Water Heater Problems

How often should I have my water heater inspected to prevent these issues?

For best results, schedule a professional inspection of your water heater every year. Regular inspections can help identify and rectify issues before they become major problems, protecting your investment and giving you a reliable supply of hot water for years to come.

Can I perform any preventative maintenance myself?

Most homeowners can perform the following tasks without help:

  • Test the pressure relief valve
  • Inspect the anode rod
  • Conduct a mini-flush to remove sediment from the tank bottom

However, these tasks are not a substitute for professional service. You should still make a plan to have one of our technicians visit your home yearly for comprehensive water heater maintenance.

How do I choose the right replacement water heater if mine can’t be repaired?

When choosing a replacement, consider factors like its energy efficiency, size/capacity (ensuring it meets your household’s hot water demands), and warranty duration. Action Furnace can provide you with tailored advice and options that suit your specific needs and budget, including tankless water heaters.

How can I prolong the lifespan of my water heater?

Regular maintenance (including annual inspections), periodic flushing to remove sediment, and replacing the anode rod when necessary can all extend the lifespan of your water heater. Ensuring that the pressure and temperature settings are optimized for your usage can also prevent undue stress on the unit.

Additionally, consider adding a water softener to your water heater. This can reduce the likelihood of limescale and sediment deposits forming, which will improve your water tank’s efficiency as well as its overall lifespan.

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