When is it time to replace your water heater?

When is it time to replace your home’s hot water unit? This is a question that is often overlooked until signs of a faulty system demand that the old tank makes way for a new one. Sometimes the longevity of your hot water system can be tweaked if you do regular maintenance checks and understand the tell-tale signs your tank may need repair or replacement. Some of the more common symptoms include leaking hot water tank, water temperature fluctuations, and unusual sounds from pipes or the tank itself. Including these just mentioned, here are six of the most common symptoms your water heater is failing or needs your attention.

when to replace hot water system

Most common signs water heater is failing

As a homeowner, you need to attend to many matters to keep your house up and running – your water heater being one of them. Given the fact that heating water in the average 21st century household takes up about one-quarter of your entire energy bill, and that the modern convenience of instantaneous hot water is really now a necessity, taking care of the flow of hot water in your home should be a first priority. Expert plumbers’ advice is that if your water heater is having problems, it will show some warning signs before it’s ready for the scrap heap. Be aware of these signs and act promptly to avoid costly repairs or unexpected need of replacement.

  • Water pooling at the base of the heater

    With the largest home hot water tank on the market able to hold up to 400 litres of water you don’t want to ignore any problems of possible leakage. The most tell-tale sign hot water system failing is water around the base of the unit. This can be caused by several issues, including a fractured tank, a faulty drain valve, or a slackened pressure relief valve. In any case of excess water escaping the tank it is vital to get it checked out by a professional post haste. If you notice leakage from the tank of your hot water heater, this could be a sign of a serious problem. It is important to have your hot water heater checked out by a professional if you notice any leaks in the tank.

  • Unit makes unusual noises

    Another sign that your hot water heater is failing is unusual noises coming from the unit. These noises can appear as deep rumbles or strange whining noises, and they often point to the fact that the tank is starting to rust or corrode. This deterioration in the heater walls can be lessened by a sacrificial anode placed in the unit. It is oxygen in the water that causes the metal inside the tank to rust, but the anode draws the oxygen to itself and slows corrosion. The sacrificial anode is there to sacrifice itself, so your tank lasts longer. Replacing the sacrificial anode and flushing your tank can help prevent premature corrosion in your tank. If you do hear strange sounds coming from your hot water heater, it is important to have it checked out by a professional as soon as possible.

  • Temperature fluctuations (water is lukewarm or too hot)

    If your hot water is not as hot as usual or too hot, this could be an indication that the unit is starting to malfunction. Reasons include a number of potential causes, including sediment build-up in the unit, a failing heating element, or a problem with the tempering valveThe water inside the actual heater by regulation should be above 60 degrees Celsius as this prevents Legionella bacteria growth. The tempering valve is the device mixing the hot and the cold water together to prevent scalding. 

    Sediment can cover up parts of the heating element lowering the temperature, or the element itself might break down on its own. 

    Whatever the case, if you notice that your water is not as hot as it used to be, it is important to have it checked out by a professional as soon as possible, for sanitary and functional purposes.

  • Skyrocketing energy bills

    If you are aware that your energy bills have suddenly jumped higher than usual, this could be an indication that your hot water heater is not at its optimal best. There are several potential reasons for this, including a faulty heating element or an issue with the thermostat. If the unit is a gas heater and the pilot light is not working, the heater might need to be re-ignited.

    There are usually instructions to how to re-ignite the pilot light on the tank, but it is best to leave it to the expertise of a professional plumber. So, if you notice a sudden jump in your energy bills, it is vital to have your hot water heater checked out by a professional before it is too late.

  • Water that is cloudy or foul smelling

    If you notice that the water coming from your hot water heater smells foul or is milky in colour, this could be an indication of a serious problem, such as bacteria growth in the tank. It is important to have your hot water heater checked out by a professional if you notice any changes in the taste or scent of the water. With over one-quarter of the world’s 7.5 billion population having no access to clean water, but ourselves in the lucky 74% majority, problems like this should be addressed immediately.

  • Unit is old

    If your hot water heater is more than a decade old, it is likely time for a replacement. Hot water heaters typically last for about 10 years before they need to be replaced. You can check for the above signs but even if absent it is still wiser to replace the unit when this old to spare any emergency inconveniences down the track.

How often should a hot water heater be replaced?

Most times, if the hot water heater is outside, it will last anywhere between 12 to 15 years. If your hot water heater is indoors, you might get 20 years if you are lucky. But if you want to increase the longevity of the heater you can regularly check what is called the sacrificial anode, as mentioned above. If you can replace the sacrificial anode and flush your tank every three to four years, you can really extend the life of your heater.

Prevent hot water system problems

If you haven’t checked your heater in a long while, this very moment is a great time to service your hot water system to allay any costly repairs in the future. You can read our tips on how to make you water heater last longer. In Australia, a regularly maintained hot water system will last longer and function at its best. Here are a few tips on how to keep your system in tip top shape. 

  • Inspect and service your hot water heater regularly. This will stop troublesome build-up or corrosion that will lead to more expensive repairs down the road. A plumbing expert can clean the unit and look for any problems that may need attention.
  • Ensure the area around your water heater is clutter free. Ensure there is enough clearance for air to ventilate around the tank.
  • Do not obstruct the vents on the sides or top of the tank. Blocking the vents can cause the water heater to overheat.
  • Forget about using an extension cord to plug in the unit. Use a designated outlet with enough amperage to supply optimum electricity.
  • If you have a gas water heater, make sure the pilot light is always on. If it extinguishes, you will need to re-ignite it to be able to use the water heater again.

For hot water systems Blue Mountains, call our friendly team and look forward to a visit from our hot water technician. We also have local plumbers in Penrith, and Lithgow.

Whether its minor or major, any time of day or night, Ironclad Plumbers are available to help with all your hot water system emergencies. Call us with your water heating worries and we’ll take care of the rest.

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