5 Tell-Tale Signs Your Water Heater Isn’t Doing So Hot

5 Tell-Tale Signs Your Water Heater Isn’t Doing So Hot

You might not give much thought to your water heater, but, like most things, water heaters get a lot more attention when they stop working properly. How can you tell if your water heater is having issues — even before something goes wrong?

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Beyond the obvious (your hot water isn’t working), there are actually quite a few signs your water heater is going out. Learn what these symptoms might mean for the health of your machine.

Broken Water Heater? Check For These 5 Common Problems:

Inconsistent Water Temperature

One way to know that your water heater is not working as it should is if you’re experiencing inconsistent water temperatures. Inconsistent water temperature could signal an issue with the thermostat, but it could also point toward a problem with the heating element, which is a bigger issue to address. However, if your water is not staying heated for long enough, it may mean that nothing is actually broken; you just need a bigger tank. If inconsistent heating continues to be an issue with your water heater, have a licensed plumber come out to inspect the situation further.

Low Water Pressure

Low water pressure is another possible warning sign that your water heater is acting up. Although other factors can influence water pressure, if you notice the water pressure from your taps is lower than usual when the warm or hot water is running, the issue is likely with buildup in your water heater. Sediment collects inside the water heater over time, causing blockages and lower flow. To fix this issue, you could call in a plumber to either clean the supply lines or replace the pipe. If you have a newer model water heater, you might want a plumber to try cleaning and flushing the sediment from the pipes first to see if that fixes the problem.

Discolored Water

If your water starts to look murky or rusty, it may be a warning sign that your water heater is corroding. If a water heater tank begins to corrode, rust can build up pretty quickly, causing discolored water that doesn’t taste good. Although it’s likely not harmful, this rust can damage your appliances. Plus, no one wants rusty, murky water to shower or wash dishes with!

Before replacing the entire water heater, you can try replacing the anode rod and see if that solves the problem. Anode rods are steel wires that have other components — like magnesium and aluminum — that help prevent corrosion in standard tank water heaters. However, they typically wear out faster than the water heaters themselves, meaning you’ll probably need to replace your anode rod every three to five years, depending on your water quality and usage.

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Strange Noises

Water heaters make some noise as part of their regular functioning, but if you start hearing unusual sounds coming from your water heater, it may signal that your water heater needs some work. If you hear a rumbling or banging sound, you could have sediment buildup in your tank that needs to be flushed out. Excess sediment buildup can also cause a popping sound. In addition to flushing out your tank, replacing your anode rod might be in order.

A crackling or hissing sound, on the other hand, may indicate moisture buildup in a gas water heater. In an electric tank, it may mean something is obstructing the tank’s heating element. If this is the case, you may need to drain your tank or call a professional for further assistance.

Whistling or high-pitched screeching sounds (yikes!) are usually related to pressure adjustments in your tank. If they continue, you may want to double-check that your pressure valves and your temperature valves are adjusted properly. If you aren’t comfortable addressing this on your own, you can call in a technician to come take a look.

Eggy Smell

An eggy smell in your water is no fun, and it’s often a sign that your water heater is not working properly. Although other water issues, like sulfur bacteria in your water supply, can also cause your water to smell like eggs, if the issue is specific to your warm and hot water supply, then you can assume the problem stems from your water heater. Sulfur bacteria love the warm, wet conditions of a water heater tank. The bacteria can build up in your tank, causing that unpleasant rotten egg smell.

Although it doesn’t mean that your water heater is broken, an eggy smell is something you’ll want to remedy ASAP. To kill the sulfur bacteria, some people suggest shocking the tank with bleach. This can be a little tricky to do, so you may want to try raising the temperature of your tank temporarily instead to kill the bacteria. You can also try replacing your magnesium anode with one of a different material. Aluminum rods tend to produce less sulfide bacteria than magnesium rods, which might be helpful if your water is prone to developing that sulfur smell.

Broken Water Heater No More

If your water heater is exhibiting any of the warning signs above, it’s best to address them promptly to avoid bigger problems down the line. The good news is that many of these issues can be fixed without having to replace your water heater entirely, meaning you can get back to enjoying dependably hot showers again without breaking the bank.

How to Thaw Frozen Pipes

How to Thaw Frozen Pipes

One of the best times to be indoors is when the temperatures plummet. Nothing quite beats the feeling of being snuggled under a blanket in the protective warmth of your house when a winter freeze hits. But that feeling of comfort can quickly evaporate if one or more of the pipes in your plumbing system freeze.

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If that happens, not only will you experience an inability to access the water supplied by the pipe, but you may also be faced with a burst pipe, which can lead to thousands of dollars in damage if not handled correctly. Fortunately, thawing out frozen pipes is an easy procedure — as is keeping them from freezing in the first place. Here’s what you need to know.

What Causes Pipes to Burst in the Winter?

While practically any pipe in your home can freeze if it gets cold enough, the pipes that run through exterior walls or through unheated areas like basements or crawlspaces are especially prone. When the water that flows through these pipes freezes, it expands. But that’s not the direct cause of the bursting pipe. The ice forms a blockage in the pipe, which causes a buildup of pressure between the blockage and your faucet. This increased pressure is what can eventually cause a pipe to split open.

What Are the Signs of Frozen Pipes?

The clearest sign that one or more of your plumbing lines is frozen is when no water (or just a little trickle) comes out of the faucet when you turn it on. Another sign that signals ice in the lines is a clanging or gurgling sound when the water is used. The pipes themselves can also give you a heads-up that something might be wrong. Pipes that look swollen or those covered in condensation could be an indication that they are succumbing to the pressure buildup caused by ice.

How Can You Thaw Frozen Pipes?

If you notice any of these signs, your first step should be to shut off the water at the main valve. This is usually found on the inside of the house where the main water line enters from the street or your well. Then, trace the line from the faucet that’s not working to find the source of the ice blockage. If you are having issues at more than one faucet, the issue might be somewhere along the main line or in multiple places.

After you find the problem spot (or spots), your goal is to get the pipe warmed back up. The methods to do this aren’t very fancy, but they do work. You can simply run a hairdryer back and forth along the line to defrost the pipe. Similarly, you can wrap the frozen area in an electric heating pad. A portable heater placed near the frozen pipe can also get the job done, as can special heating cables wrapped around it. Finally, for the most low-tech of all solutions, if you can access hot water anywhere in the home, you can soak bath towels in hot water, then wrap them around the frozen pipes.

When thawing pipes, you’ll want to be sure that you have some buckets and extra towels around. If the pressure buildup has already created a small tear or hole in a pipe, when you turn the water back on, it can spray everywhere and accumulate quickly.

Also, never use any kind of flame or device that uses a flame to defrost your pipes. This is not only a safety hazard, but it can damage your pipes even more.

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How to Prevent Frozen Pipes

Pipes generally need to be in 20-degree Fahrenheit (7-degree Celsius) weather for more than six hours to begin to freeze. So knowing this, you can take steps to keep things warm. One option is to place a space heater in any areas where it can get exceptionally cold in the winter months, like your basement or garage. In the home, keep cabinet doors open so that your home’s heat can reach the pipes, especially if they are on exterior walls.

And speaking of your home’s heat, when it gets exceptionally cold outside, it’s a good idea to keep your thermostat at a set temperature. While some people use timers or smart thermostats to save energy, a deep freeze is not the time to skimp on heat. The damage from a burst pipe can cost a lot more than a little extra warmth. If you are going away during the cold months, leave your thermostat on a setting not lower than 55 degrees Fahrenheit (13 degrees Celsius).

In addition to providing heat to your pipes, you can also insulate cold areas in your home and wrap the pipes themselves with inexpensive pipe insulation.

Although it might sound like an old wives’ tale, leaving water trickling out of your faucets really can help ward off frozen pipes as moving water is much less likely to freeze than still water. Again, it might go against your sense of environmentalism to waste water, but a burst pipe can dump gallons in mere seconds and cause damage that would require hundreds or even thousands of dollars in new materials to repair.