Can you recall the last time you replaced your hot water heater? If not, chances are the day is approaching. Most homeowners are caught off guard when a water heater goes kaput, but there are some signs you can be alert to that will help you predict whether a water heater is on its last leg. Here are three to look out for.
An aging water heater
Check the date your water heater was manufactured. Most water heaters last anywhere from 8 to 12 years. You can check how old your water heater is by examining its serial number. It may look nothing like a date to you, but AngiesList.com breaks down the code: “The serial number contains the date that the water heater was manufactured. But it won’t look the way a date is normally written. Instead, the serial number will have a date code such as ‘F051052638’. F is for the month and F is the sixth letter in the alphabet, so it represents the sixth month, June. Next, the first two digits of the serial number are 05, which represents the year, 2005. So this water heater was made in June 2005. Each manufacturer has a similar date code, and they can vary; check the manufacturer’s website to learn more.”
Once you know when your water heater was manufactured, you’ll have a better idea of whether it’s nearing the end of its lifespan.
A noisy water heater
Listen closely to the sounds your water heater is making. All appliances operate with some degree of noise, but that noise should be regular, predictable, and unalarming. If you begin to hear cracks, pops, or rumbling while your water heater is in operation, that’s a bad sign. These noises point to issues with mineral deposits and sediment building up inside of your water heater–a natural process that occurs slowly over the life of the heater. These deposits tax your water heater’s ability to run efficiently, and contribute to the weakening of the heater’s metal walls, leading to small cracks or holes that will eventually begin to leak.
A smelly or rusty hot water supply
Examine the hot water flowing out of your pipes. Is it rusty? Does it smell funny? Rusty water can be a sign that the inside of your hot water heater tank is rusting away, which of course means that the end of its usable life is near. But foul-smelling or cloudy water can also alert you to a hot water heater problem. The folks at Home Depot explain, “mineral deposits travel out of the water heater and create cloudy hot water… often a metallic odor accompanies these deposits. The deposits travel to your faucets and clog the screens in the aerators slowing the flow of water.”
If you notice any of these signs, act quickly to determine whether your hot water heater needs replacing. Waiting can result in your water heater leaking quite a bit of water, which can damage other parts of your home!