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7 Signs It’s Time to Replace Your Water Heater

technician evaluating a hot water heater

Your water heater is probably not something you think about until something goes wrong. Then one day, you go to hop in a nice warm shower and get hit with an icy blast instead. You wait for a few minutes for the water to warm up; the minutes go by, yet nothing. So you start wondering what to do. Is this going to be a simple fix, or are you going to need a full replacement?

To help you get a better handle on the situation, here are some signs that your water heater may need to be replaced. Boonstra has been serving the Hamilton and Burlington areas for over 50 years, so we can give you reliable advice on when it’s time for a new water heater.

Water Heater Life Span

Different water heaters have different life spans, but a water heater will only reach its maximum lifespan if it is well maintained. If you don’t have hot water, and you are confident that you haven’t just used it all up, you may need to consider a replacement.

If you are not sure how old your water heater is, check the number on the manufacturer’s sticker, which is usually found on the upper half of the tank. The date is not usually written in a readily identifiable format. It will look something like B160123789. The letter will indicate the month, and the first 2 numbers following the letter will represent the year. So for this example, the manufacturing date for this water heater was February of 2016. B is the second letter of the alphabet, so it represents the second month of the year.

Most water heaters have a life span of approximately 10 years, though this can vary depending on the manufacturer and how much use your water heater gets. 

If your heater is 10 years old or more, you may want to consider replacing it, particularly if you notice any of the following signs of trouble.

Signs of Wear or Rust

Keep an eye on your water heater for signs of wear and tear. With time, minerals in the water will react with the steel tank, causing the inside of your tank to corrode (forming rust). Examine the temperature and pressure release valves carefully, since this is often where corrosion first begins to show on the outside of the tank. You should also check the inlet and outlet connections for leaks, which are never a good sign.

Not having hot water may indicate that one or more of the unit’s internal mechanisms has become worn or damaged. Depending on which piece is the problem, you may be able to have the unit fixed, but this isn’t always an option.

Water leaking form a rusty water heater

Leaking

If there is a pool of water under your tank, it may be a sign that the tank itself is fractured. As the metal warms, it expands, which can cause it to crack and leak. If you notice a pool of water, please proceed with caution since this water may be extremely hot. 

Your best course of action is to call a professional since they have both the skills and knowledge to rectify the situation, help minimize or mitigate damage, and stay safe.

Cold Water

A telltale sign that your water heater may need replacing is if you turn your tap to hot but only ever get water that is lukewarm or cold. Depending on the root cause of the problem, the solution may be a quick and relatively simple repair or a replacement may be required. However, without more information, the answer won’t be obvious, which is why you should seek out a professional opinion.

Noise

Loud noises from your water heater are usually a sign of trouble. Banging or thundering sounds usually means there is a significant problem. As such, suspicious noises should be investigated by a professional. 

The likely culprit is sediment; as your water heater ages, sediment builds up on the bottom of the tank. Sediment buildup is common for water heaters in Hamilton and Burlington, due to hard water. The heat from the water slowly hardens this sediment, and when the tank goes to heat water, it moves the sediment around, causing it to bang loudly against the side of the tank.

A loud, repetitive banging noise every time your water heater turns on is usually a sign that your unit has reached the end of its lifespan. The banging is hard on the tank and can cause it to crack and leak, potentially causing excessive damage to the area around the tank. 

Rusty Water or Heater Inlet Valve

A pool of rusty water is a tell-tale sign that the inside of your taken has rusted. Water heaters are equipped with an anode rod, which is used to help prevent the tank from rusting by allowing the rod to rust instead. Anode rods can be easily replaced, but if the rod isn’t replaced when it is spent, the tank will begin to rust instead. The water tank may also have an unusual smell.

This rusting will eventually break down the tank, causing it to crack and leak. It isn’t always obvious at first glance if the rust is coming from the tank or the pipes that connect to it, but rust is never a good sign. A professional can help you determine which part of your water heater system is to blame for the rust and suggest an appropriate solution.

Lack of Maintenance

When was the last time you had maintenance performed on your water heater? Like all mechanical equipment, water heaters need routine maintenance to keep them running smoothly and maximize their lifespan.

Without proper maintenance, minor, easily fixed problems can quickly balloon into more serious and costly repairs. If the problems are really bad, you may require a whole new unit.

To help maintain your unit, make sure you have it professionally flushed, drained, and cleaned at least once every year. If your home has very hard water, you may want to consider booking a maintenance appointment every 6 months, since the additional calcium and other minerals are very hard on your unit.

What About Tankless Units?

Tankless water heaters typically require less maintenance than their tank-based counterparts. For more information about the different types of water heaters available, please read our blog post Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Water Heaters.

If you are concerned about the state of your water heater, it’s always best to call a professional for advice and assistance. While regular maintenance can help you get the most out of your unit, a unit that has reached the end of its lifecycle, and begins to crack or leak, can cause significant damage to your home. Not to mention, you still won’t have any hot water. At Boonstra Heating and Air Conditioning, we offer free in-home assessments to help you decide if it’s time for a new water heater.

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