When Will My Water Heater Fail?
What Does Water Heater Failure Look Like?
Water Heaters Fail at the Worst Possible Time
I heard the story of a Las Vegas resident whose water heater failed ON NEW YEAR’S EVE!! If a water heater is going to fail…it often happens at the very worst time!
Unfortunate Discovery of a Water Heater Failure
The homeowner stepped into his garage (where the water heater was located) to empty the garbage, only to be confronted with a major flood! Water was gushing out of the water heater, streaming through the garage, soaking everything that was not on a shelf before heading out the driveway into the street.
Locating the Water Heater’s Water Turn-Off Valve
After that initial moment of shock, the homeowner understandably attempted to turn the water off. But where was the shut-off valve? There were a number of valves at the base of the water heater and he turned them all off and went into the house to make an emergency maintenance call. Remember, this was New Year’s Eve. More on this later. Returning to the garage the homeowner was shocked to find water still streaming out of the water heater! Did he need to turn off the water supply to the entire house? After a long search, he managed to locate another shut-off valve on top of the water heater. Bingo! That valve turned off the water supply to the heater. Now, back to make a few more emergency maintenance calls. The best first maintenance visit he could successfully schedule was four days later. New Year’s Eve was on a Thursday that year, followed by New Years Day and then a weekend. What are the chances?
Scheduling Professional Water Heater Replacement
The water heater maintenance professional arrived on Monday to scope out the situation. Diagnosis: The water heater had failed, no repair possible, new water heater needed. Order the new water heater and return a few days later to install.
Surviving 7 Days Without a Water Heater
7 days without hot water in the middle of the Winter where cold water is REALLY cold! Ice cold showers or hot sponge baths made possible by heating water on the stove and pouring it into a cold-water bathtub until a decent temperature could be achieved. Enough of this story! As with any crisis, we ask the question: How could this delightful experience have been avoided?
When Will Your Water Heater Fail?
If you can predict the time your water heater may fail, you may be able to avoid that unpleasant surprise. But is water heater failure predictable? If so, what are the signs?
5 Warning Signs of Approaching Water Heater Failure
- Look at your water heater warranty. Most water heaters have a 10-year warranty. Why 10 years? Because shortly AFTER the 10-year point the chances of water heater failure dramatically increase.
- So, water heater failure prediction sign #1: How close to the 10-year point is your water heater?
- Side note: If you have a tankless water heater, these can perform well for about 20 years. However, you most likely have a water heater with a tank.
- You may be noticing a lack of hot water…probably most noticeable in your LUKEWARM SHOWER! Bad bad sign!
- Your water heater is making strange rumbling noises. That’s not normal. Water heaters in good condition are relatively silent. So, listen to your water heater.
- Cloudy or rusty hot water is a bad sign. Your hot water should be clear. If it’s rusty, that likely indicates that the water heater tank is corroding and your time is limited!
- Leaks around the water heater pressure relief valve.
What to Do to Replace Your Water Heater Before It Fails? Extending the Life of Your Water Heater.
You want to get the most use out of the life of your water heater. Replacing it even a year before it fails is a waste of a working water heater. So, you want to predict the moment of failure with approximate accuracy.
- Professional Inspection: In the 9th year of the life of your water heater, have a plumber inspect it, especially if you’re noticing any of the above early warning signs of water heater failure. Plumbers can detect issues that are not apparent to most homeowners. After all, you don’t want to take your water heater apart and do a DIY diagnostic job do you? For many homeowners, that alone could lead to EARLY water heater failure!
- Side note: If you flush your water heater as it ages, you may be able extend the life of your water heater. Over time, sediment builds up in the water heater tank making it work harder and leading to corrosion. How often should you flush your water heater tank? Normally, once every 6 months. If you have hard water, you may need to flush it more often. Flushing a water heater is a job best left to a professional.
- Replace the Anode Rod as your water heater ages. The Anode Rod helps prevent damaging rust and corrosion in your water heater tank. Anode rods last between 3-5 years.
- Replace the drain valve. The drain valve is likely to fail earlier than the water heater tank.
Replacing your water heater BEFORE it fails can save you money:
- Energy Cost Savings: A new water heater runs up to 20% more efficiently saving on energy costs.
- Cost Effective New Water Heater Purchase: You’ll have more time to shop around for the best equipment at the lowest expense.
- Emergency Maintenance and Replacement Costs: You’ll save on the cost of an emergency maintenance call and unplanned water heater replacement.
Can you replace your own water heater?
If you have a current plumbing license, you probably can. If you do not, don’t try! Water heater replacement involves both sophisticated plumbing and electrical connections. DIY replacement could lead to hazardous conditions and land you in violence of building codes which can cost much more in the long run.
Being aware of the average life of your water heater, along with knowing the early warning signs of water heater failure can help you know when your water heater might fail before that disaster occurs. And know that disaster is likely to occur at the worst time! In addition, regular water heater maintenance following some of the maintenance tips in this article can extend the life of your water heater. It’s a good policy to have a professional inspect your water heater…especially if you can’t remember when your water heater was last inspected.
- Water heater inspection.
- Water heater maintenance.
- Water heater replacement…even when faced with an emergency water heater failure!