We’ve all known that feeling of dread: you turn on a faucet or step in the shower, and the water that is supposed to be hot…isn’t. Invariably your thoughts turn to the expense of a water heater replacement. But a malfunction doesn’t always mean a replacement is necessary. The life span of a water heater is, on average, about 10-12 years. If your water heater is younger than that, the problem could be one of several possibilities that could be solved with a water heater repair.
Before you start looking for a new water heater, check out the tips below to see if a water heater repair is all you need. Start by looking at the manufacturer’s instructions located on the water heater. Then, read the tips below to see if you can determine a possible cause. This will help you understand the type of work that will need to be performed by a licensed plumber.
Electric Water Heaters
- Power supply. Check your fuse box and the main switch on the water heater to rule out a power interruption. If you find that the breaker has tripped (meaning it is no longer set to “on”) turn it completely off, then on again. If it continues to trip, contact an electrician and have them take a look.
- Heating Elements. Electric water heaters contain two metal heating elements that heat the water to the desired temperature. Over time, they can become corroded and stop functioning. If you are continuously experiencing lukewarm water or you get a temporary spike in hot water followed by nothing but cold water, one or both heating elements may need to be replaced. If this is what you’re experiencing, a professional will need to make the repair. Contact our team today to schedule a water heater repair with a licensed plumber.
- Thermostat. Lukewarm or cold water could also be a sign of a malfunctioning thermostat. A professional plumber can determine whether the lack of hot water is due to the thermostat or heating elements and whether a repair or replacement is necessary.
Gas Water Heaters
- Pilot Light. The pilot light, which ignites the gas burner to heat the water, may occasionally go out. This could be caused by gas supply problems, simply being blown out or a defective thermocouple. You can relight it yourself, but it is very important to follow the manufacturer’s safety instructions located on the water heater. If you don’t feel comfortable doing this yourself, call a licensed professional to relight the pilot.
- Thermocouple. The thermocouple is a safety device that senses if the pilot light is on. If the pilot light goes out, the thermocouple will shut down gas flow. If the pilot light won’t stay on, the thermocouple may need to be either cleaned or replaced.
- Gas Thermostat Control Valve. If the thermocouple and gas supply are fine and the pilot light still won’t stay on, then the problem could be the gas thermostat control valve. During hot water usage, the main burner flame will ignite to maintain your set temperature. Typically, gas thermostat control valves require replacement rather than a repair and should be done by a licensed professional.
- Noises. An older gas water heater may make gurgling and/or popping sounds when the burner comes on. This is a sign the water heater needs to be replaced.
Electric and Gas Water Heaters
- Rusty Water. With both electric and gas water heaters, if your water appears to be rusty, it could be the anode rod, which normally works to attract metal in the water, so it attacks the rod and not the tank. Over time, it will naturally corrode. Replacing the anode rod at the first sign of a problem is critical to extending the life of your water heater. If left alone, the entire water heater will start to corrode, requiring a full replacement.
- Smelly Water. A foul, sulfur-like odor to your water, usually caused by the presence of bacteria in the tank, may be a sign that the anode rod needs to be replaced, preferably with an aluminum rod instead of magnesium. This is particularly important if your water comes from a well. It’s recommended that a professional inspect the anode rod every three to five years to ensure it is in optimal working condition.
- Leaking Water. If water is leaking from the top of the water heater, it is likely a loose or faulty valve. If water is leaking from the bottom, it may be due to condensation or the tank may be leaking due to corrosion, which requires a replacement.
If your water heater needs a repair or replacement, contact the Energy & Comfort Consultants at BGE HOME for a free estimate. We can help you find the best water heater for your home and budget. If you just need a water heater repair to get back up and running, our licensed technicians service all brands and provide prompt, reliable service.