We use our water heaters every day, but it’s rare we spend any time thinking about them. It’s only when we notice the water isn’t as hot as it used to be that we think something might be wrong. If you’ve noticed cooler temperatures, discoloured water, or odd sounds, there’s likely something wrong. Read through this list of common water heater problems to help you determine what’s going on.
Common Water Heater Problems (Tank-Type)
The following are the most common issues your tank-type water heater may experience over the course of its life. These issues can impact both gas and electric models, though there are power specific problems both can experience. If you’re unsure of what type of water heater you have, read our breakdown first.
In water heater tanks, one of the most common problems is corrosion. Corrosion happens when metal gets wet, this causes a reaction in the metal to return to its natural oxidation state. Seeing as the purpose of your tank is to hold water, corrosion is bound to happen. When the hard water inside of the tank causes corrosion this can lead to leaks and further damage in your unit. If left untreated, these leaks can grow until you have a major issue to deal with.
Seeing a small pool of water around your water heater isn’t cause for immediate concern. Usually, the water you are seeing is a result of condensation. You should start worrying if water is spraying or flooding from the unit or its pipes. This is likely due to a loose pipe or a corroded section of the tank. If your tank is spraying water from a leak, be sure to turn off the water valve that connects to the tank fast. Read this article for the steps you should take next.
3. Pilot Light Sensor
Often times a pilot light sensor fail is the reason for water heater problems. If you have a gas-powered water heater, the pilot light must remain on to heat your water. If it goes out, you will have cold water. A pilot light that won’t stay lit is usually due to issues with your thermocouple. This is a device that detects whether your pilot light is on by generating a heat-powered electrical current. If your thermocouple isn’t working right, your pilot light won’t stay lit.
4. Thermostat Issues
Thermostat issues can be the cause of unpleasantly cold or extremely hot showers. When your thermostat is acting up, it cannot properly tell the temperature of the water inside the tank. The good news is that this can easily be corrected and you can even buy a thermostat test to see if that’s the cause of your water issues. If it is, a quick call to a plumber will have this problem fixed.
5. Discoloured Water
If you notice a rusty colour to your hot water, this is a sign of major corrosion. You need to act fast and get a plumber to address the situation before a leak forms. If the water isn’t rusty but looks dirty, this is likely due to sediment that’s made its way into the hot water outlet or it could be scale build-up on the heating elements.
6. Odorous Water
When there’s an unpleasant smell to your water, it’s likely due to bacteria in the tank. If your home uses well water, it’s more common for it to give off an unpleasant smell. For a quick fix, you can increase the temperature on the thermometer to 140 degrees to help kill off the bacteria. For a more permanent fix, a plumber will need to replace the anode rod.
7. Strange Noises
You shouldn’t be able to hear your water heater. If it’s making popping, hissing or banging noises, there are a couple of causes. Strange noises are usually due to scale build-up on heating elements or a sediment build-up on the bottom of the tank. If it’s not due to a build-up of some kind, your unit could be making noises due to a leak, too much pressure inside the tank, or the normal expanding/contracting of pipes. Strange noises are often not cause for concern, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry. You can always have a pro take a look to make sure it’s not something more serious.
Common Water Heater Problems (Tankless)
While tankless water heaters continue to grow in popularity, they are not without their issues. Many of the above issues can also happen to tankless units, and the following are some of the most common to affect them specifically.
1. No Hot Water
If you only have cold water coming from your pipes, it’s clear that something is not working right with your heater. This could be any number of issues, but most commonly it could have something to do with the shut off valve. Start by making sure it’s open. If so, check the burner, control panel and pipes next to see if anything’s off. When in doubt, get a pro to come in and take a look.
2. No Flame
Again, if there’s no flame, there’s no hot water. No flame in your unit could have something to do with your electric or gas lines, depending on your power source. If that’s fine, it could be an excess of condensation causing the flame to go out. If that doesn’t appear to be the problem, have a plumber check your unit to see what’s wrong.
3. Low Water Pressure
If you’re already dealing with cold showers, you don’t want to have a cold shower with low water pressure. Low water pressure is most often due to a block in the plumbing. Once that block is cleared, your pressure should return to normal. If it doesn’t, there’s something else causing your water heater issue.
While these are certainly not all of the problems that could affect your water heater, they are some of the most common. The good news is that water heaters are relatively simple appliances in terms of parts, so figuring out what the problem is is usually pretty easy for a pro.
That being said, make sure you do consult a pro to fix any water heater problems. Water heaters contain a large amount of hot water and should only be handled by trained professionals with experience. Attempting to handle any problems on your own could result in injuries, increased issues or an unnecessary flood. Avoid these issues and call in a pro when you have a common water heater problem.