Water heaters don't get much in the way of accolades when they operate properly, but an ailing water heater gets noticed. After all, there's no way you can ignore a bone-chilling blast of cold water when you're ready to take a long, hot shower. Here are a few signs that it may be time for a brand-new water heater.

1. Lukewarm Water Temperature

A lack of hot water may be one of the first problems you'll notice with your water heater. An ailing water heater may have trouble bringing its water supply up to the desired temperature, resulting in water that feels lukewarm. Sediment buildup can prevent the burner or heating element from heating the water effectively. A complete burner or heating element failure can also lead to lukewarm water.

Lukewarm water temperatures can also be caused by an incorrect setting. Check the water heater temperature valve and make sure it's set to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Use a cooking thermometer to verify the water temperature. If water temperatures are still lukewarm even at the correct settings, you need to replace your water heater.

2. Exterior Rust and Corrosion

If you can see visible signs of rust and corrosion on the exterior of your water heater, have it replaced. Exterior rust and corrosion can weaken the water heater's structural integrity, making it more likely to leak or otherwise fail catastrophically.

3. Muddy or Rust-Colored Water

Take a look at the water that comes out of your hot water tap. Muddy, silt-filled water is usually a sign of excess sediment buildup, while rust-tinged water is a sign of serious rust and corrosion buildup inside of the water heater tank.  

4. Metallic Odor and Taste

Notice something different about the way your water tastes? A noticeable change in water taste is another telltale sign that your water heater may need replacement in the near future. An ailing water heater can cause rust and other metallic debris to mingle with your water supply as it deteriorates. Unless you're using a water filter, you may notice your water suddenly has a metallic taste and odor to it.

5. Burn Marks

On standard atmospheric water heaters, burn marks along the bottom of the water heater or near the exhaust flue can indicate a serious issue. Improper venting can cause hot exhaust gases to backdraft or flow backward and vent into the room instead of leaving through the exhaust flue.

Backdrafting not only causes performance issues for your water heater, but it also places your home at serious risk for carbon monoxide poisoning. If you're experiencing these issues, it may be time to have your water heater replaced.

6. Popping or Banging Noises

Although you can expect your water heater to make a little noise during operation, unusually loud noises may be an indicator of its impending demise. A failing water heater may make loud popping, rattling, or banging noises as it heats up. These noises are commonly referred to as kettling because the phenomenon is similar to a tea kettle heating up.

These noises are often caused by years of sediment and mineral buildup. Unchecked sediment buildup can cause hot spots throughout the water heater that allow water to boil and flash into steam. These actions produce the telltale popping and banging noises that are often associated with a failing water heater.

7. Constant Water Leaks

A constant puddle of water around your water heater can be a cause for concern. Corrosion around sealed pipe fittings can lead to a slow, continuous leak that gets worse over time. The constant expansion and contraction of the water heater's inner tank can also cause hairline cracks to form, allowing water to leak out of the inner tank.

8. Old Age

Even if your water heater does not display any of the above-mentioned signs of impending failure, you should consider its age. Your water heater's projected longevity depends on the type of water heater you have and how well it was maintained throughout its life.

You can expect a conventional water heater to last for 8 to 12 years before it needs replacement. Tankless water heaters can last nearly twice as long, with most models offering up to 20 years of reliable service. You may be able to squeeze a few more years out of your water heater through meticulous maintenance and upkeep.

The more your water heater ages, the less efficient and reliable it eventually becomes. Instead of hanging on to an aging water heater, you're better off having it replaced soon, especially if the following apply to you:

  • You haven’t replaced your water in heater in 10 years or more.
  • You can't remember when you had your current water heater replaced.
  • You purchased your home years ago and the previous owner did not replace the water heater.

The experts at Henry's Service All can take care of a wide variety of HVAC and plumbing tasks, including water heater installation and service. Contact us to get your free estimate today.