A home's water heater gets used every single day. Most of us don't give this important appliance a second thought, but when your hot showers last less than two minutes, it may be an indicator that your hot water heater is starting to fail.
Here are six signs that your hot water heater is bad.
1. The Connections are Rusting or Leaking
If you think your water heater may be acting up, take a look at the connections. Are they rusty or leaking?
Rust indicates that the connections are leaking – or were leaking at one time. Leaking is an obvious sign that something is wrong.
A water heater uses an anode rod to prevent rust and corrosion. But the rod itself eventually depletes through a natural corrosion process. Once the rod is fully depleted, those corrosive forces will start attacking the tank and the connections. Eventually, the connections will fail.
If the hot water heater is leaking, it's definitely time to replace it. If the leak is serious, you'll need to call in an emergency plumber.
A leak can quickly and suddenly turn into a serious – and costly – flood, so don't wait to call a plumber.
Noise is a tell-tale sign that something is up with your water heater. Popping and banging noises are the most common sounds water heaters make when they're starting to fail.
These sounds between mineral deposits and the heating element inside the tank. When the water heater attempts to heat the water, the mineral deposits insulate the heat and make the tank overheat. The constant overheating eventually causes metal fatigue. When this happens, the tank will fail and start to leak.
If your water heater is making strange noises, it may need to be repaired or replaced.
3. Poor Hot Water Output
If the hot water only lasts a few minutes or you have no hot water at all, it may be time to replace your water heater.
If you're only getting warm water, this may be a sign that the tank's heating element is starting to go bad.
4. Hot Water is Cloudy or Smelly
When a water heater starts to fail, mineral deposits can make their way into your water. These mineral deposits are what make the water cloudy. These deposits can also clog the aerators on your faucets, which slows down the flow of water.
5. Water Around the Water Heater
Metal expands when it heats, so if there are slight fractures in the tank, water may start leaking. Once the tank cools down, it stops leaking. With this type of leaking, there's less of a risk of serious flooding. However, a plumber still needs to be called and the issue needs to be fixed before it progresses into a bigger problem.
6. Your Water Heater is Old
If you can't remember the last time your home's water heater was replaced, it may be time for a new one.
Water heaters have a lifespan of about 10-15 years. Beyond this point, you're pressing your luck.
One way to check the age of your water heater is to look at the serial number. This number contains a code that indicates its manufactured date.
The first letter represents the month. So, if the serial number starts with "F" – the sixth letter in the alphabet – you know it was manufactured in June. The two numbers after the letter represent the year.
If the water heater was manufactured more than a decade ago, it may be time for it to be replaced. A plumber will be able to tell you whether your heater is failing and if it's time to start thinking about buying a new one.