An essential modern household appliance, your hot water heater may not be appreciated or thought of very often until something goes wrong. From the catastrophic bursting leak that soaks your house (which, by the way is highly unlikely) to the slow, inevitable build up of rust and sediment that clog the insides, your hot water heater has many ways to “die.” The typical lifespan of a traditional heater is anywhere from eight to fifteen years, so this is one appliance you’ll likely have to replace during your time as a homeowner.
When you notice that you don’t have hot water any more, first check the heater and the pan it sits on for water. Heaters and pans have drains to the outside, so look around your home’s exterior. If you see a puddle or notice hot water outside, turn off the water intake and, while wearing gloves, open the pressure release valve. Check all pipes and connections for leaks.
If you hear loud, rumbling sounds coming from your heater, this is a sign that it is about to fail. Over time, sediment builds up in the bottom of the heater, and as it is heated and reheated, it can harden and block the hot water exit.
Another sign of imminent failure is rusty water. If you notice discolored water or see rusty sediment coming out of your hot water faucet, and you do not have galvanized pipes, then it is likely that the interior of your heater is rusting. This rust comes from tiny holes on the interior tank and eventually those holes will get larger and create a leak.
When it is time to replace your hot water heater, consider hiring a professional for the installation. You can buy a heater at a home repair store and have them install, or you can just get the unit from the plumbing company you choose. Make sure you get the same type of replacement unit as you had before – gas or electric.
Tankless heaters are becoming more and more popular, despite their higher cost. Many homes in our area have heaters in an attic or closet on the second floor, so if there were to be a leak it could cause water damage to your house. Tankless heaters work by heating water directly as it flows through the pipes, creating an endless supply of hot water. However, they might not be able to meet the demand of a household that needs hot water for multiple showers or other appliances at the same time. They are also more expensive than a regular heater.