The Signs of an Old Water Heater and Tips on When It’s Time for a Repair

water heater

The average cost of a new hot water heater is $1,170. Most Americans make this purchase expecting their investment to last eight to twelve years.

While this time frame is helpful, it leaves room for significant variation from one water tank to another. It’s important, therefore, to know the signs of an old water heater.

Signs Your Old Water Heater Isn’t Working

Detecting problems early can mean the difference between water heater repair and replacement. It can also prevent more costly damage and repairs.

These are the signs you need to take action.

Your Hot Water Is Brown

If your hot water—and only your hot water—is brown, the inside of your tank may be corroding. Another telltale sign of corrosion is a metallic taste or smell to your hot water.

A corroding water tank requires quick action. With time, rust will eat through the walls of your old water tank. Eventually, the tank will burst, causing significant damage to your home.

Fortunately, vigilance can prevent this costly damage. That’s because water tanks are equipped with sacrificial anode rods. These rods sacrifice themselves by attracting the corrosive elements in your water. That means these rods will corrode and need replacing well before the tank does.

Without a professional inspection, though, you won’t know if corrosion is attacking your tank’s anode rods or the structure of the tank itself.

That’s why it’s necessary to contact an experienced repair service, like this company, at the first sign of rust.

Your Water Tank Is Leaking

If your tank is already leaking, the need for action is even more urgent. This is true no matter how small the leak may seem. A leaky water heater could burst at any time.

At the first sign of a leak, take the following steps:

  1. Shut off the water heater
  2. Turn off the cold water valve to the tank
  3. Call a repairman

A professional can assess the source of your leak and recommend repair or replacement. In general, leaks stemming from these places are usually easier to repair:

  • Pipe connections
  • Expansion tank
  • Cold water, temperature-pressure relief (TPR), or drain valves

Your Water Heater Is Making Noises

A noisy water heater is more than an annoyance. In fact, popping or knocking sounds can indicate sediment buildup inside the tank. Banging and rumbling sounds can also result from excessive sediment.

This sediment—largely magnesium and calcium deposits—comes from the water itself. When it gathers at the bottom of the tank, it puts a barrier between the water and the tank’s heating elements. In doing so, it makes the tank work harder and overheat.

A tank that works harder is not as efficient as it could be. This means higher energy costs for you. In time, a tank that constantly works harder than necessary will also weaken. Eventually, it can leak or even burst, which means significant repair bills too.

If you notice these sounds, call a repair service right away. Caught early, sediment buildup can be flushed out. If the sediment has been building for some time, though, the damage may be irreversible. In that case, you may need to consider a new water heater installation.

You Don’t Have Hot Water

If you’re not getting hot water, you might assume that your old water tank has died, and this could be the case. However, you should investigate a bit before taking further action.

One of the most common explanations for a water tank that fails to heat is, of course, a lack of power. Sometimes, this problem stems from a flipped breaker switch rather than a malfunctioning tank.

If you’ve already checked your breaker box, though, a plumber can investigate causes inside the tank.

Your Water Heater Needs Frequent Repairs

Maybe you’ve already worked with a plumber to address some of the issues above. In doing so, you’ve managed to keep your old water tank working.

If you and the repairman are on a first-name basis, though, it might be time to consider a new tank. Installing a new hot water tank can not only save you money on repair bills. It can also save on your energy bills.

The Department of Energy requires new hot water tanks to meet more stringent efficiency standards. These standards protect the environment and preserve scarce resources. At the same time, they also reduce homeowners’ energy costs.

A professional plumber can help you decide when it’s time to explore newer models and enjoy these savings.

Your Water Heater Is Older than a Fifth-Grader

Maybe you’ve read this far and are feeling rather lucky. You haven’t noticed any of the above signs. That means you’re in the clear, right?

Wrong. If your water heater is older than a fifth-grader, it still might be smarter—and, in the long-run, more cost-effective—to replace it. At the very least, knowing that your water heater is getting up in years means it’s time for greater vigilance.

So is there any way to tell how old a water tank is if you didn’t live in the home when it was installed? Actually, there is.

Water tank serial numbers begin with a letter and a number. These usually indicate the month and year the tank was manufactured.

Tanks manufactured in January will have serial numbers that begin with “A.” Tanks manufactured in February will have serial numbers that begin with “B” and so on.

The two-digit number that follows indicates the year the tank was manufactured. Thus, a tank made in March of 2015 will have a serial number beginning with “C15.”

Having even an approximate estimate of your tank’s age can help you anticipate and plan for repairs and replacement.

Hot Water Tank Maintenance Means More than Going with the Flow

Like other home maintenance tasks, hot water tank maintenance is essential to your family’s comfort and safety. Proper maintenance can also save you money.

Knowing the signs of an old water tank prepares you to meet this task.

As you care for your home, your family, and yourself, count on our blog for the best information.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here