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Is It Time to Replace Your Old Water Heater? Signs to Watch For

Take a moment to think about the appliances you depend on for comfort and convenience in your home. Your washing machine and dryer, your dishwasher, your oven and stove, and so many more. However, your dependence on these pales in comparison to your dependence on your water heater. This simple yet incredibly crucial device provides you with hot water with the twist of a tap, making it easier and more convenient to do things like laundry, bathing, cooking, and so much more.

However, because water heaters are used so often, they face a lot of wear and tear. And that wear and tear eventually causes irreparable damage to your water heater, necessitating a replacement. Of course, nobody wants to have to suddenly replace their water heater—going without hot water for a few days can be obnoxious at best and dangerous at worst. That means it’s important to recognize the signs that your water heater may be on the fritz and need replacement soon.

Here are a few signs that it might be time to replace your water heater (or at least plan to do so soon).

A Leaking Tank

This is probably the simplest and easiest sign of trouble to spot. If you notice water puddling up around the bottom of your water heater or see water dripping from your tank in spots where it shouldn’t be, then you need to take action immediately. Water heater leaks can cause major damage to homes by destroying drywall, rotting structural wood, and even damaging foundations. To make matters worse, a leak is one of the few water heater problems that isn’t cost-effective to repair.

If you see a small amount of water near the bottom of your tank, keep an eye on it for a day or so, checking it regularly. If the water dries up and doesn’t return, then you’re likely okay. If the water remains or the puddle gets bigger, then call a professional plumber and arrange to have your water heater replaced right away.

Dirty or Rust-Colored Water

Rust-colored or dirty water is a sign that your tank is suffering from internal corrosion. Water, while an important part of our life, is also corrosive to certain types of metals. Over time, corrosion slowly eats away at your water heater’s tank, resulting in rust and sediment being absorbed into your hot water. If your water absorbs enough corroded material to become discolored, then you should stop using your hot water and call a professional plumber immediately.

Unfortunately, the only way to fix this issue is to completely replace your water heater. However, this is also the wise choice, as a corroded tank is also one that is extremely prone to leaking. Continuing to use one of these tanks will almost certainly cause it to start leaking soon, and that can cause significant damage to your home, in addition to requiring a full water heater replacement.

Strange Smells When You Run Your Hot Water

Does something smell metallic when you turn on your hot water anywhere in your home? What about musty, sort of like mold or mildew? Or even the distinct, putrid stench of rotten eggs? These are all signs that something has gone wrong with your water heater.

The rotten eggs smell is caused by an excess of hydrogen sulfide gas in your water heater tank and is the result of an excess of sulfur-reducing bacteria, or SRB. These bacteria are most frequently found in water drawn from untreated wells, but they can be found anywhere, including in municipal water systems as well. Allowing water to sit idle in a water heater for too long allows SRB levels to rise. As these levels rise, they consume more sulfates, resulting in more hydrogen sulfide gas in your tank.

Unfortunately, the only way to truly eliminate this problem and sanitize your hot water again is to replace your tank. However, we strongly recommend also installing a water treatment system that targets water-borne bacteria.

Taking a Long Time to Reheat

If your water heater takes a long time to bring a tank back up to temperature, then you could have one of several problems. A thick layer of sediment in the bottom of the tank could be preventing your heating elements from properly heating your water. Your heating elements themselves could be wearing out. Your ignition system may be faulty, or your thermostat might be giving out. While some of these problems could be repaired, experiencing several at once may be a sign that it’s better to just replace your water heater outright and start fresh.

Tank Age

Finally, one of the simplest signs that your water heater might be due for a replacement is just plain old age. Even if your water heater is working okay, you should start planning to replace it around roughly the 8 to 10-year mark, as most water heaters generally give out around that age.

It’s fairly easy to know how old your water heater is. Check the labels on the side of your tank and see if the technician who installed it noted the installation date. If they didn’t, look on your information label for a manufacture date (which should be printed on every water heater). If the date is more than 10 years ago, keep a close eye on your water heater and start preparing to have it replaced soon.

Ditch the Tank & Go Tankless!

Want to avoid the problems that a tank-style water heater can cause? Ditch the tank and upgrade to a tankless water heater system! These heaters don’t struggle with a lot of the same inherent problems that their predecessors do, and they provide you with a potentially limitless supply of hot water as well! No more waiting for the tank to refill and no more cold showers when you’re the last one to get up in the morning!

Time to replace your water heater? Call Village HVAC at (978) 650-3057 today!