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How to Diagnose a Failing Water Heater

  • Alma 

Is there a problem with your water heater? When a water heater gets older there are a few fail points to take a look at. This doesn’t necessarily mean you need a new one. However, it is important the problem gets resolved quickly to enjoy hot water and prevent damage.

The first step is to identify the root issue. Asking the following questions will give you a better idea of what might be wrong and therefore, how to repair it.

  • Does the water heater make hot water?
  • Is the water heater leaking?
  • Do you hear strange sounds from the water heater?
  • Is there enough hot water pressure?
old rusty water heater

The water heater is not heating water

Here are some things you can do if your water heater is not heating water:

  1. Inspect the circuit breaker or fuse box to see if the circuit has been tripped or if there’s a blown fuse. If found, reset or replace it before resuming the usage of your water heater.
  2. Look at the thermostat and ensure that it is set to the correct temperature. A broken thermostat could be the culprit in why the water heater is not working.
  3. Check the heating elements to see if they need to be replaced. These components are responsible for heating the water, so if they are worn out, they may need to be changed.
  4. If your water heater is powered by gas, check the gas valve. Ensure that it is open and that it is supplying gas to your water heater.
  5. Finally, inspect your water heater for leaks. If there is a leak, it could disrupt the heating process, so it needs to be repaired or replaced.

 

water heater dripping water onto the floor

The water heater is leaking

Here are the steps to take if you notice your water heater is leaking.

  1.  Shut off the water supply to put a stop to the water leakage.
  2. Identify where the leak is coming from.
  3. Once the leak’s origin has been identified, you can proceed to fix it or contact Sunset Plumbing and we’ll come out to fix it for you.
  • If the leak is coming from a water line, you can try tightening the connection. If this does not stop the leak, you may need to replace the water line.
  • If the leak is coming from the temperature or the pressure relief valve, you may need to replace the valve. These are important safety features, so it is important to have a qualified plumber make these repairs.
  • If the leak is coming from the tank, you may need to replace the water heater. 
    Testing a T&P Valve

    The water heater is making noises

    A noisy water heater is often a sign of a problem. Here are some of the most common noises that water heaters make and what they mean:

    • Popping: Sediment is a build-up of minerals that can occur over time, especially with Utah’s hard water. The sediment can lead to popping noises.
    • Rumbling: This is also caused by sediment buildup, but it can also be caused by a problem with the heating element. If the heating element is not working properly, it can cause the water in the tank to rumble.
    • Banging: The thermostat is responsible for regulating the temperature of the water in the tank. If the thermostat is not working properly, it can cause the water heater to overheat, which can lead to banging noises.
    • Screeching: This is usually caused by a problem with the pipes. The pipes that carry water to and from the water heater can become corroded or damaged over time. This can cause the pipes to screech when water flows through them.
    • Whistling: This is usually caused by a problem with the valves. The valves that control the flow of water to and from the water heater can become corroded or damaged over time. This can cause the valves to whistle when water flows through them.
    Shower head with a gold trim

    Low Hot Water Pressure

    Below are some of the most common reasons for low hot water pressure and methods to resolve them:

    1.  Sediment buildup: Sediment can accumulate in the water heater, causing a reduction of flow and pressure. To fix this problem, flush your water heater.
    2. Hard Water buildup: Hard water can leave a scale buildup resulting in low pressure. Installing a water softener can prevent this buildup.
    3. Blocked pipes: Low water pressure can also be a result of clogged pipes. To determine if you have clogged pipes, turn off your water heater’s water supply and then turn on all hot water taps in your house. If you do not hear water flowing, you might have a clogged pipe. Contact us for assistance.
    4. The thermostat setting: A thermostat set too low can cause low hot water pressure. To determine if this is the case, turn off the water supply to the heater and then turn on the hot water tap. If the water is not hot, then the thermostat may need to be adjusted.
    5. Burnt-out heating elements: This can also lead to low hot water pressure. To verify this, turn off the water supply and remove the access panel. If the heating elements are damaged, they will need to be replaced.
    6. Old water heater: If your water heater is over 10-15 years old, it may be time to consider replacing it. Older water heaters are prone to experiencing issues, including low hot water pressure.
    plumber checking a water heater checklist

    Water Heater Maintenance & Inspection

    We recommend regular water heater maintenance and inspections at least once a year. This may aid in detecting possible issues before any damage is done to the system or your home. 

    1. Regularly drain your water heater to eliminate the accumulation of sediment. In hard water areas, sediment will build up quickly.
    2. Inspect the anode rod and change it every 3 to 5 years. The anode rod is a metallic component that serves as a protective barrier against corrosion in the tank.
    3. Install a leak detection system. This system will give an early warning of any leaks, thwarting any significant harm.
    4. Replace a water heater after 10-15 years. Water heaters only last about 10-15 years depending on how they’ve been maintained and the type of system you have.
    5. Set your thermostat to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. This will save energy and money. This temperature is recommended by the Environmental Protection Agency and helps to reduce energy consumption and thus lower your electricity bill.

    If you have checked all of these things and you are still having problems with your water heater, it is time to call us. We will be able to diagnose the problem and recommend a solution.

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    Alma Bradshaw

    About The Author

    Hello, My name is Alma Bradshaw. I'm a licensed plumber with over 20 years of experience in the industry. It's important to stay informed and up-to-date on the latest plumbing techniques, innovations, codes, and regulations. Learn more about plumbing here and feel free to comment below with any questions.

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    Sunset Plumbing logo for the footer

    776 N 470 E

    Genola City, Utah 84655

    Utah License # 6161467-5501

    Sunset Plumbing logo for the footer

    776 N 470 E

    Genola City, Utah 84655

    Utah License # 6161467-5501