7 Warning Signs It’s Time To Replace Your Water Heater

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Feb 9, 2024

The water heater is a significant house component. It provides warm, running water for baths, showers, hand-washing, cooking, laundry, and dish-washing. However, you may sometimes take this appliance for granted.

Like other appliances, the decline of your water heater is inevitable. Being mindful of its condition is essential to prepare for the necessary transition when the time comes.

At the same time, addressing issues before your water heater fails can minimize the inconvenience and costs it brings.

So, here are the signs that your water heater needs a replacement:

1. The Water Is Cloudy, Rusty, or Sandy

The most common issue water heaters have is discolored water. When corrosion occurs, rust builds up and can leak into the water supply, resulting in rusty water.

But before jumping to conclusions, it’s best to run cold tap water for a few minutes first. If the cold water is rusty, the issues might be in the pipes. However, it might be time for a replacement if it isn’t.

Sometimes, the water can also be cloudy or sandy. In this case, your heater might have a sediment buildup. Flushing the tank and cleaning out the sediments can rectify this discoloration. But if the water remains discolored, consider getting a new heater.

2. Bill Is Increasing Despite Not Getting Enough Hot Water

Another telltale sign of water heater failure is the lack of warm water. This issue can mean there is no hot water, hot water doesn’t last long, or water is not as hot as intended. You may also notice your electricity bill going up.

The common causes of such problems are electrical thermostat issues. Generally, thermostats are set between 120°F and 140°F. If you readjust and the warm water returns, you don’t need to replace your water heater.

A broken heating element inside the heater can also cause a lack of hot water. Plumbers can quickly fix this issue within a few hours. However, components may not be available for older water heaters, so your best option might be a replacement.

3. Strange Noises

Water heaters naturally make noise. However, identifying the type of noise is crucial in determining whether yours requires a service or replacement. These noises include:

  • Popping – Sediment buildup can cause this noise. You can drain and clean the tank to fix this problem.
  • Whistling – This noise is due to water pressure being forced into a small opening caused by a partially opened valve. If the valve is close to your heater, leave the repairs to a professional to avoid steam burns.
  • Banging – Also called the water hammer, this noise occurs when the water stops or forcefully changes direction. It may be strong enough to burst your pipes.
  • Humming – Loose heating elements typically cause humming noises. Try tightening the element to eliminate this noise.
  • Hissing – Hissing is another noise potentially caused by sediment buildup. Flushing and draining your heater can help with this issue.
  • Rumbling – Sediment buildup at the bottom of the tank can cause rumbling or vibrating noises. It’s because the sediments trap the boiling water, causing bubbling that vibrates.

While you can fix these issues, hearing loud and frequent noises may indicate significant problems that only a replacement can resolve.

4. Water Pooling Due to a Possible Leak

Old water heaters tend to leak around the floors, potentially damaging your property. Metal expansions inside the tanks, which occur on multiple heating cycles, can cause this water pooling.

These expansions may also cause cracks where water can leak out. You can sometimes fix these small leaks temporarily, but you might only delay the replacement.

5. Metallic Smell and Taste

Your water heater is likely corroding when the water smells and tastes metallic due to the seeping metals. This corrosion usually happens on older water heaters.

However, sediment and chemical buildup can also cause premature wear and tear. Replacing your heater is best because metallic water can pose health risks when ingested.

6. Frequent Repairs

Considering a replacement is worthwhile if you frequently call a plumber for repairs. Since modern water heater models are equipped with advanced technologies, a new one can last longer and provide energy-efficient features to lower electricity bills.

Moreover, upgrading to a more energy-efficient model provides a roadmap to home energy rebates that can help you save money. These incentives encourage homeowners to make more energy-efficient improvements that maximize investment.

7. The Water Heater Is Old, or You’re Unsure When It Was Last Replaced

Water heaters are usually installed before you buy a house. Determining the heater’s age can be challenging if the previous homeowner doesn’t have documents.

Fortunately, you can find the month and day of manufacture of a water heater in its serial number. But if the serial label has worn out, you can verify the information with the manufacturer.

Water heaters usually last between 15 and 20 years. You can extend this lifespan through repairs. However, regular maintenance is necessary if your heater is over ten years old. Hiring a professional plumber is essential to get expert advice about replacements.

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Steps for Replacing Your Water Heater

Here’s how to replace your water heater if you prefer to do it yourself:

Turn off the electricity or gas supply

The first step involves shutting off the electricity or gas supply. You can do this through the following methods:

  • Turn the gas valve off by hand or an adjustable wrench. Ensure that the valve handle is at the right angle of the pipe and the pilot light is out. Smell for gas before proceeding.
  • Shut off the circuit breaker or detach the fuse for electric water heaters.

Drain the tank

After turning off the gas or electric supply, turn the cold water supply line valve off to drain the tank.

  • Open a hot water faucet on the lowest level of your home to make the tank lighter.
  • Attach a hose to the drain valve, gently open it, and let the water flow to a drain or a bucket. Remember to be careful as the water could be scalding hot.
  • You’ll know you’re nearly done once the water flow decreases.

Disconnect the water, electrical, and gas lines

For water lines:

  • Disconnect the water lines with a pipe wrench or channel-lock pliers.

For electrical lines:

  • Remove the junction box cover. Then, unscrew the wire connections and cable clamp.

For gas lines:

  • Detach the gas control valve with a pipe wrench or channel-lock pliers. Then, disconnect the water heater vent pipe from the draft hood.

Swap the water heater with a new one

Carefully slide the water heater away after disconnecting the tank. You may need help with this because older water heaters are typically heavy because of the sediments. Afterward, contact a sanitation agency or local waste management for safe and legal disposal instructions.

Then, clean the water on the floor in preparation for the new heater. Position the heater and twist it to align the plumbing connections with the pipes. Use a carpenter’s level to ensure the heater is standing straight. You can use wooden shims to adjust the level when necessary.

Secure the pressure relief valve and other fittings

Wrap layers of Teflon tape around the threads of the new heater’s temperature and pressure relief valve. Then, tightly screw it with a pipe wrench or pliers to secure it in place and connect the discharge drain pipe.

Proceed to install other fittings according to your manual’s instructions.

Reconnect the water, electrical, and gas lines

For water lines:

  • Cut or extend the old pipes to align with the newly connected ones.
  • Solder the two edges with copper slip couplings or dielectric unions.
  • Connect the old and new pipes with flexible copper pipes or 45-degree elbows if you can’t align them.

For electrical lines:

  • Attach the electrical cable to the wire connection box at the top of the heater.
  • Link the circuit wires to the water heater leads with wire connectors.
  • Put the cover plate back on the wire connection box.

For gas lines:

  • Attach the gas line to the gas burner control valve.
  • Restore the gas supply power and check for leaks by brushing a soapy solution on the gas union and joints.
  • You must tighten the connection if you see bubbles.
  • Reconnect the vent to the draft hood.

Finish the installation and restore the power

Turn on the cold water supply and set the thermostat to refill the tank. When the water flows from the hot faucet you opened in the first step, you’ll know the tank is full.

Then, turn the power on.

  • For electric water heaters: Reset the circuit breaker in the power panel or reinstall the fuse.
  • For gas water heaters: Ensure the gas valve is open and follow your manual instructions to confirm if the light igniter is working properly.

Don’t Delay the Replacement

Recognizing the signs of water heater failure helps you avoid its inconvenience and costly repairs. You can plan a replacement before a significant breakdown by staying attentive and proactive

This way, you can make informed decisions that won’t delay the inevitable, ultimately ensuring a smooth transition to a new, more efficient unit.

While you can do the replacement yourself, hiring a professional plumber or water heater repair service is best to ensure proper installation and optimal performance.

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