We all have a tendency to take our water heaters for granted, that is until they fail. In this area the average life expectancy of a water heater is 10 – 12 years. Around that age, the glass lining has cracked allowing the hot water to rust through the steel tank. While it is rare of a catastrophic failure, such as the tank rupturing, leaks do occur and can cause considerable damage.
Things to look for as your water heater ages:
Water heaters tend to leak in one of three ways. One is a leak actually on the piping above the water heater where the water goes down the insulation and drips out the bottom. Secondly, the relief valve can fail or be activated and will allow water to leak out the end of this drain pipe. In many cases these first two can be repaired. Lastly, when there is nothing visible externally leaking, but water is leaking from the water heater, this is most commonly a tank failure which is not repairable.
Any corrosion that you can see can be an indication that either a leak has occurred or is occurring. The outside shell of the water heater encloses the insulation that encases the actual water heater tank. Corrosion on this shell can be caused by a leak on the water pipes above the water heater. Other times this is an indication that a small leak has developed in the tank, not enough to actually drip out, but enough to cause the insulation to get damp.
Rusty or Odorous Water
This is sometimes the first indication that the glass lining has failed inside the tank and the steel tank is rusting. This can be a sign that that the tank is near its end of life.
As a water heater ages, mineral deposits and sediment can form layers on the bottom of the tank. Sometimes, on gas fired water heaters, this can trap water which can then over heat to the point of boiling, causing a popping or rumbling sound. This overheating can cause damage to the glass lining.
Lack of Hot Water
This usually falls into one of two categories.
- If you do have hot water but it prematurely goes cold. This can be an indication that the dip tub has failed (this is an internal pipe inside the water heater that prevents the hot and cold water from mixing in the tank as you use the hot water). Or, if your water heater is electric, this could indicate that one of the heating elements is not heating properly.
- You may not have any hot water. On a gas water heater this could indicate that the pilot light has gone out. Lighting instructions are usually located on the front of the water heater. On an electric water heater, this can indicate that the electrical breaker or the thermostat has tripped.
Call Kennedy Plumbing if you have any concerns about your water heater. Our licensed Journeyman Plumbers can diagnosis, repair or replace your water heater. Also call us to schedule your annual service on your water heater.