A brand new water heater may last 20-30 years, or even longer, if it is well-built and well-maintained, but that doesn’t mean you won’t have any problems along the way. Although your water heater is sure to work just fine for several years without incident, there are all kinds of issues you might experience as time goes by. And if you fail to schedule regular inspections and maintenance, things could go south a lot quicker, especially if you have issues like calcium or rust in your water. In any case, you’re sure to want a quick fix when something does go wrong with your water heater, so here are a few common issues you might encounter and how you can get your unit working again in no time flat.
- Cold water. Perhaps the worst thing that can happen when it comes to your water heater is that you turn on the tap expecting hot water and instead get nothing but cold. Although there could be several possible explanations for this turn of events, the most likely culprit is that your pilot light has gone out, in which case all you have to do is re-light it. This is a fairly simple process, especially with newer, “no light” units. It used to be that you had to turn off the gas, wait for it to clear out, and then turn it back on and figure out how to get a tiny match next to the pilot without burning your fingers or setting the whole place on fire. These days you push a button and the pilot self-lights. Yay, technology! Of course, it will still take several hours for your tank to heat depending on size, so you might want to shower at the gym.
- Scalding water. Although you can certainly adjust the temperature at the tap, you probably want to make sure it is set right on your water heater if you have kids in the house that you don’t want to accidentally get scalded when they turn the hot water on. Luckily, this is just as simple as adjusting the dial on your unit. The correct temperature to avoid scalding is 120? Fahrenheit, and it is often marked on the dial with an arrow.
- Water that won’t stay hot. If you’re used to having plenty of hot water for a bath or shower and you suddenly start to notice that it’s getting cold sooner than usual, there could be a variety of issues at play, but more likely than not it’s simply time to flush the unit. You can do this on your own with a few simple tools and an online tutorial. But it’s a messy and time-consuming task that might be better relegated to the service of a plumber.
- High energy bills. Over time you may start to notice that your energy bills are on the rise, and once you’ve ruled out other reasons, you might realize that your water heater is to blame. In this case there are a couple of potential fixes. You could start by seeing if the insulation on the unit has deteriorated, allowing heat to disperse and increasing your demand for energy. Of course, this could also be just one sign that it is time to replace your unit, in which case you might want to opt for a new unit with lower BTUs and Energy Star approval. Or you could consider a tankless water heater that is even more energy efficient, heating water on demand rather than storing it in a tank until you need it.
- Rust in the water. There’s not a lot you can do if you have rust in your water, unless it turns out that it’s coming from your antique water heater. A good way to determine if this is the case is to have the unit flushed so your plumber can get a look at the sediment coming out. If the inside is rusty you can try to clean it, but more likely than not the only solution is replacement. Of course, you can help to prevent such issues by scheduling annual service calls, say at the same time as your yearly furnace tune up. But rust can be difficult to address after the fact.