Water heaters are a frequently overlooked appliance. Unless your faucets are suddenly spouting ice-cold water, you might not notice that anything is wrong. However, there can be a lot going on behind the scenes. Most water heaters fail slowly, and there can be some subtle warning signs that something is happening. If you want to catch any water heater problems as soon as possible, you need to keep an eye out for these potential problems.

1. Weird Smells Coming From Your Water Fixtures

If you notice a strange smell in your home, your water heater is probably the last place you’ll check. However, it can actually be the source of many unpleasant odors. A smell like rotten eggs, metal, or sulfur can indicate that something is going wrong. If you realize that these odors occur every time you use hot water, it’s time to check out your tank.

Inside every water heater is an anode rod that’s meant to slow corrosion. However, certain types of anaerobic bacteria that may cause unusual smells in your water tank can interact poorly with the anode rod material. If you don’t want the rod to break down too quickly, you need to act fast. To address the issue, homeowners will need to both clean their entire tank and replace their anode rod.

2. Signs of Water Damage Near Your Heater

If your tank is older or damaged, leaks can eventually occur. However, a leaking water tank isn’t always as obvious as a giant stream of water spouting out from the container. Many tank leaks develop slowly, so you might just have a few drops of water seeping out. In addition to puddles or damp spots near the tank, you need to keep an eye out for more subtle signs.

Any smell of dampness, mildew or mold around the tank can be a sign of abnormal humidity. Leaks can also look like discolored patches on the ground or walls near the tank. Though a leaky water heater sounds ominous, it’s sometimes fairly easy to address. You may just need a technician to replace a few valves or patch a seam.

3. Hot Water That Never Seems to Last

Not all water heaters quit heating water when they need maintenance. In some cases, damage to your tank just causes your heater to heat less water or heat it more slowly. When this happens, you’ll find that your hot water runs out quickly. Though you may have plenty of warm water when you turn on a faucet, you might notice that it’s getting cold after a single shower.

There are a few different problems that can cause this issue. In very old tanks, the issue can simply be sediment buildup. Sediment accumulates slowly in your tank from all the minerals within your water. If you don’t flush your tank regularly, it can end up taking up space that should’ve been used to store hot water. You can also have problems if the burners in your water heater are broken. Though they can still warm water, they might not be transferring heat as efficiently as they used to.

4. Gritty or Discolored Water

Corrosion is an inevitable problem in any hot water heater tank. A sacrificial anode rod is supposed to attract all the corrosion within the tank. However, if you don’t replace the anode rod once it is fully corroded, the corrosive minerals in the water will start eating away at your tank. Once your tank is rusting, your water will start to look a little strange.

Typically, a corroding tank will cause water to look rusty or muddy. You might also see small chunks of sediment that make your water feel gritty. When this happens, you need to act fast. Getting a plumber to replace your anode rod and fix any corroded spots will keep your tank from experiencing further damage.

5. Water That Feels Unpleasantly Hot

Not all broken water heaters cause chilly water. In some cases, a broken water heater can actually become too hot. If your water is scalding hot even when your temperature settings are low, something is malfunctioning within your unit. The piping hot water can end up making your whole unit break because various components degrade faster at high heat levels.

An overheated water heater is typically due to problems like a stuck valve or a faulty thermostat. In some cases, it can also mean that your heating element is failing and is stuck in an “on” position. Whatever the cause, this problem needs to be addressed as soon as you can. Not only can overheating break your tank, but it’s also dangerous. Members of your household can face unpleasant burns when your water heater is too hot.

6. Weird Sounds Coming From Your Water Heater

Every functioning water heater makes a noise now and then. As the burners turn on and off, you might hear some cracks. It’s also normal to hear small gurgles as water moves in and out of the tank. However, any abnormal sounds are cause for concern. If you are hearing crackling, popping, or banging, you should get your tank checked.

Most strange sounds come from sediment accumulation. When there is too much sediment, your water heater can make a sizzling or crackling noise as it heats up. Sometimes, it can even cause mini explosions that sound like a loud knock or pop. Other times, sounds may be caused by a problem with your pressure-reducing valve. Imbalanced pressure levels can lead to ticking or even whistling.

7. Water That’s Never Hot Enough

A lukewarm shower can be more than a mild inconvenience. If your water heater used to warm up just fine but your hot water suddenly feels lackluster, it can be a sign that something’s wrong. In some cases, the issue is just that your temperature settings were adjusted incorrectly. However, when your water still feels a little cool on the highest setting, something else is going wrong.

It is possible that a heating element is starting to die, but in many cases, there is another culprit. Sometimes, it just means that a coat of sediment is covering your heating element. Lukewarm water is also frequently caused by a broken dip tube. The dip tube is supposed to help fresh, cold water circulate in the tank properly. If it breaks, cold water can flow out before it is fully warmed. Fortunately, repairing a dip tube is usually quick and affordable.

Local Experts at Your Service

If you notice any of these warning signs, it’s essential to seek help as soon as possible. Getting your water heater fixed promptly can prevent small issues from turning into major problems, and nobody wants to live without hot water for an extended period of time. At TR Miller Heating, Cooling & Plumbing, we are happy to provide water heater maintenance and repair solutions. Our plumbers will examine your system, explain what’s wrong, and offer affordable options for correcting it. In fact, we provide a complete range of plumbing services. Our technicians also perform expert heating, cooling, and indoor air quality equipment installation, repair, and maintenance throughout the Plainfield, IL area. To learn more about all we offer, contact us at TR Miller Heating, Cooling & Plumbing today.

company icon