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frustrated kid holding his headIt can be very frustrating trying to figure out if it’s time to replace the household water heater, or if it simply needs a little TLC. This article will help shed some light on whether it just needs a repair, or if it needs to be replaced.

There are plenty of signs that a water heater is about to fail. Below are some of the most common indications that it’s time to replace the household water heater. 

Common Signs It’s Time To Replace the Water Heater

rust-colored water running out of a faucet

If the water heater is 10 years or older, it will be in the best interest of the house to go ahead and replace it before it starts causing problems. To check the age of the water heater, simply look on the upper part of it and find the manufacturer’s sticker.

If rust-colored, metallic tasting water is coming out of the hot water faucet, this is another big indicator. Dark, metallic water is a clear sign that the inside of the water heater is beginning to rust. If this is left unattended for too long, it will severely damage the tank. It will also begin to leak and cause more damage to the home. 

sediment at bottom of a water heaterWith older water heaters, it is not uncommon to notice strange noises or rumbling coming from the unit. These are usually caused by excessive sediment build-up accumulating on the bottom of the water heater. As the water heater will frequently change temperature, the sediment will eventually harden. When this happens, it will be harder for the water heater to effectively heat the household water supply. This will ultimately cost more money to run it. 

leak underneath water heaterConsistent “puddles” around the base of the water heater could be a sign that there are fissures and cracks in the hull of the tank. As the metal heats and expands and then cools and shrinks again, this causes these fissures and cracks. While this is normal and should not cause problems for quite some time, in an older water heater it could be a sign that it is time to replace the water heater. But before doing that, make sure that leaky pipes or loose valves are not to blame.

Why Isn’t There Enough Hot Water? 

shivering duckIt’s safe to assume that the biggest problem with water heaters is that there is often not enough hot water being supplied to the household. There are some simple explanations as to why this is happening, regardless of the type of water heater (i.e. gas or electric).

Electric Water Heater Malfunctions and Possible Causes 

yellow lightning boltMake sure that the water heater has a proper connection to the power source, and then, reset the thermostat. There could also be too much sediment in the bottom. As mentioned above, this impedes the function and makes it harder to heat enough amounts of water. A good flushing of the water tank will make sure that all the sediment is removed.

Another culprit might be that the pipes are not properly insulated, and the water is losing heat on its way up to the rest of the household. Another thing to assess is the heating element or thermostat. If this is the case, it would be best to just replace that part, rather than the entire unit. If all those things check out fine, it could just be as easy as raising the temperature.

Gas Water Heater Malfunctions and Possible Causes

close up of water heaterThere are only a few differences when it comes to assessing problems with electric and gas water heaters. The first thing to check on a gas model is the pilot light. If the pilot light has gone out, relight it, and make sure that the gas valve is hooked up securely and properly. Another issue could be that the gas burner needs to be cleaned. The cleaning is a good time to go ahead and replace the thermocouple, too. Just like electric versions, it is important to flush to rid the tank of sediment. Also, keep an eye out for rusty water coming from the hot water faucet.

In conclusion, if the tank itself is presenting serious damage signs, it is smartest to replace the whole water heater. Give us a call, and we will be more than happy to help you make the right decision!

It’s something we don’t really think about — until it stops working. When your shower gets cold, that’s when things heat up!

Amidst cries of outrage about cold water showers and cold water dish washing, we scramble to figure out what caused the water heater to stop working. But, before we talk about things that can go wrong with water heaters, let’s take a look at their simple, yet creative design and discover how it is they do what they do to make our daily lives more comfortable.

 

WATER HEATER DESIGN

The majority of residential water heaters are storage water heaters. They are basically tall cylindrical tanks–sort of like a tall metal drum. They vary in capacity from about 20 gallons to about 80 gallons of water. Even though traditional water heaters don’t present a very dramatic appearance, the principles they use to supply abundant hot water to your home are pretty interesting.

 

COMPONENTS

water heater

                  photo credit: US Department of Energy

 

Storage water heaters are comprised of the tank and a couple of tubes, a series of valves, and a mechanism for heating the water. Storage water heaters are either electrical or gas operated. Here’s how all these components work:

  • Tank: The tank is made of heavy metal and is actually the inner component of the cylinder. It serves as a shell to hold the water. Tanks are often covered with some type of insulating material, a decorative “outer shell” and sometimes an additional insulating blanket-type cover.
  • Dip Tube/Cold Water Inlet: Cold water enters the tank at the top and flows through this tube to the bottom  of the tank. Because the water is cold, it stays close to the bottom of the tank where heating occurs.
  • Hot Water Outlet: This pipe is also at the top of the tank. Heated water at the top of the tank exits through this outlet and flows to areas where it is needed.water heaters
  • Shut-Off Valve: This valves closes off the flow of cold water into the tank.
  • Drain Valve: This valve is near the bottom of the tank and is used to empty the tank when servicing is needed.
  • Pressure Relief Valve: This valve serves to regulate pressure inside the tank.
  • Anode Rod: This rod, made of steel overlaid with either magnesium or aluminum, is suspended in the water of the tank to help reduce corrosion.
  • Heating mechanism: In a gas storage water heater, the heating mechanism is a gas burner and chimney system. An electrical storage water heater uses heating elements projecting into the interior of the tank to heat the water.
  • Thermostat: This device is a thermometer and a temperature-control device. Electric water heaters may have individual thermostats for each heating element.

HOW IT WORKS

water heatersStorage water heaters rely primarily on the scientific principle that hot water rises. Cold water enters the top of the tank through the dip tube or cold water inlet, flows through the pipe to the bottom of the tank where it exits the pipe, pushing the warmer water already in the tank upward.

The thermostat setting is usually between 120 – 180 degrees Fahrenheit. The thermostat should be set nearer the lower end of this range in homes with small children to prevent potential scalding injuries. As the thermostat monitors the temperature of the water inside the tank, it regulates the function of the elements (on an electrical water heater) or the gas burner (on a gas water heater) to heat the water accordingly.

Because heat rises, the hottest water is always closest to the top of the tank. When a hot water tap is turned on somewhere inside the home, the hot water exits the tank through the hot water outlet at the top of the tank and flows to the open tap.

What’s next?

Now that we have a basic understanding of the parts of a water heater and how it works, our next post will take a look at some things that typically cause water heater problems resulting in the dreaded cold shower.

Whether you have a malfunctioning water heater or a leaking faucet or a clogged drain, Knoxville Plumbing is here for you!

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