Water Heater Failures: Repair or Replace?

We rely on our water heaters to supply our homes with hot water for a wide variety of purposes. This is a hard working appliance and most of us tend to take it for granted until something goes wrong. There may be warning signs, such as strange noises, a lack of sufficient hot water and pools of water under the unit. These should not be ignored because the problem will only worsen as time passes. The cause of the failure could be a water leak, a failing temperature and pressure relief valve or other issues. Some valves are repairable, but if the water heater tank is leaking water, then an entire replacement is usually the better choice. In this article, we will take a closer look at some common water heater problems and evaluate the repair or replacement options.

7 Common Water Heater Problems

Let’s take a look at the seven most common water heater problems that can lead to a repair or replacement decision, they are:

  1. A failing temperature and pressure relief valve.
  2. A gasket that has deteriorated.
  3. A water leak from a pipe in close proximity.
  4. A water leak from the water heater tank.
  5. Poor water pressure.
  6. An overheating water heater.
  7. A valve that is stuck in the open or closed position.
7 Clear Signs that the Hot Water Heater is Failing

The aforementioned water heater problems are not going to appear overnight. In many cases, there are some clear warning signs that a problem is developing or gradually getting worse. Some of these warnings are more obvious than others, but if you know what to look for it’s easier to know when to call your local professional plumber. Let’s take a closer look at the seven main water heater warning signs, they are:

  1. The hot water has a rusty/reddish color.
  2. You never seem to have sufficient volumes of hot water.
  3. There are unusual sounds emanating from the hot water storage tank.
  4. There are pools of water under or around the unit.
  5. The water heater is at an advanced age (more on this below).
  6. The water heater tank is leaking.
  7. The frequency of essential repairs has increased dramatically.
Should a 15+ Year Water Heater be Replaced?

Many people have a trusty old water heater in the 15-20 year age range. A water heater is a very hard working appliance and we rely on it every day. For this reason, we advise homeowners to get their water heater maintained to keep it working at optimal efficiency. But, eventually, even well maintained equipment will lose efficiency, it will be more prone to failures and the frequency of repairs will increase. This tends to manifest as a lack of sufficient hot water for the home when in the past this has not been an issue. If corrosion is present inside the hot water storage tank, you may notice reddish or rusty water coming from your hot water faucet. At this point, it’s time to contact your local professional plumber to get the problem resolved.

When you consider the age of the appliance it makes more sense from a financial perspective to replace the water heater. If a repair is possible, some problems can be resolved by flushing the system. But, with water heaters that reach such an advanced age, another failure will occur soon. In many cases, the cost of the repairs will soon become greater than the cost of a new high-efficiency water heater. The energy savings will help the owner to recoup most of their investment quickly.

Don’t Avoid Water Heater Flushing

If you have a newer water heater and you can’t remember when it was flushed, it’s a good idea to schedule an appointment with your local plumber. When water heaters are not flushed on a regular basis, they are extremely vulnerable to corrosion. Another problem is the accumulation of sediment at the bottom of the water heater tank. This material can clog or block the pressure and relief valve which is a major failure risk. Water heater flushing is a preventative maintenance measure that can help you to avoid a lot of potential problems that can disrupt your access to hot water.

Water Heater and Servicing

Ongoing and regular water heater maintenance should be regarded as an essential aspect of homeownership. We need hot water for a wide variety of tasks from bathing and showering to laundry and so much more. When access to hot water is limited, our hygiene standards are degraded and our lives become far harder. An annual plumbing inspection will cover every part of a home plumbing system and this includes the water heater. The plumber will visually inspect the water heater to look for any signs of water leaks and surface corrosion. They will then carry out some troubleshooting to evaluate the performance and efficiency. If you have already had problems with your water heater and it falls into the 15-20 year age bracket it may be a smart decision to replace it. The plumber will offer impartial advice on the viability of a repair and how it stacks up against purchasing and installing a new unit.

Hiring a Professional Plumber

As you can see, some problems are worse than others, but all of these issues are tricky to handle without formal plumbing training and experience. Developing good DIY skills can be very rewarding and it’s a great way to save money on home improvement projects. But, there are aspects of plumbing repair that are best left to your local licensed and certified plumber. Dealing with a failing or failed water heater certainly falls into this category. Many attempts at repairs or a replacement fail and the homeowner ultimately needs to call a professional plumber. Also, dealing with electricity or gas powered units can be dangerous if you don’t have any relevant training or experience. Hiring a professional plumber will give you extra peace of mind and the work can be completed quickly. This will restore your hot water and your home life can get back to normal in next to no time.