One of the luxuries afforded to developed nations worldwide is hot water. This is something of which many take advantage. You likely never think about having hot water until you don’t have it for some reason. Then, you realize how lucky you are. Your hot water heater is one of the hardest working appliances in your home; it’s also one of the least thought of appliances. Avoid a dreadful cold morning shower by keeping your senses aware of the following four signs of a water heater in distress.
1. Your Pilot Light Will Not Stay Lit
If you have a natural gas hot water heater, it has a pilot light just as your gas stove does. Sometimes, when a hot water heater is old or in need of maintenance, the pilot light will refuse to remain lit. This translates into cold water coming into your home through your hot water taps. If you find yourself getting down on your hands and knees and igniting your water heater’s pilot light on a regular basis, it’s time to call for diagnostic plumbing service. The light should remain lit unless you extinguish by hand.
2. Your Water Heater Is Making Strange Noises
Your water heater will make some normal noises. When you first turn on a hot-water faucet in your home, you will hear the pilot light ignite the gas burners. This sounds much like your gas oven when it ignites. You may also hear some minor pinging as the water heats up inside the unit, which can be attributed to the steel expanding and contracting. You should not hear loud banging, pinging, squealing, or other unusual sounds emitting from your water heater. If you do, turn off the hot water and call a professional plumber.
3. Your Hot Water Is Rusty or Smells Strange
As water heaters age, they rust on the inside. There is no way you can avoid this. It’s a simple fact of the materials used to construct the heaters and how they interact with water. The rust is harmful in two ways. One, it can eat away at the inside of your heater and you will eventually have a leak. Two, it can stain your sinks and tubs if the rust breaks free from inside the unit and comes out of your showerheads and faucets. Your hot water should be clear, not coppery from rust, and it should also smell clean, not of rust or iron.
4. You Have No Hot Water
Finally, if you have no hot water but your pilot light is lit, your unit may be ready for replacement. The average lifespan of a hot water heater is eight to 12 years (although some have been known to last longer), so if your unit is nearing its eighth birthday, or it is older than that, start saving for a new one. Unlike other appliances that can be repaired repeatedly, a water heater’s innards can only be replaced for so long. Because it stores water constantly, it will rust out eventually. The better you maintain it the longer it will last, but you must have realistic expectations as the unit ages.
Your hot water heater does so much for you and your family. It gives you wonderful showers and baths. It cleans and disinfects your clothes and dishes. It takes away the chill when you’ve just come in from the cold. To ensure you get the eight to 12 years you should expect from your unit, make certain to have it maintained properly by a plumbing professional. Also, keep an ear, eye, and feel out for the four signs discussed. The sooner you realize there may be something wrong, the easier the repair, most likely.