steam from hot water pot

6 Signs Your Hot Water System is Failing

The average hot water system can be expected to last anywhere between 8-12 years. Its life expectancy will depend on a range of different factors, from the quality of water used to the environment it is exposed to. Over our 25 years of hot water experience, we’ve even found hot water systems that have lasted over 20 years! No one wants to be without hot water, however, so it can be useful to know the signs your hot water system is failing before its gone or puts your home and family at risk.

1. Your Water is Rust-Coloured

Water from your hot water system should be crystal clear. If at any time your water is coming out cloudy, murky or even looks a rusty-colour, then this is a sign your water heater is dying.

When metal is left wet, it eventually rusts, and your water tank is made of metal. Sacrificial anodes are installed inside hot water storage tanks. These are made of a specific metal that will preferentially rust over your storage tank, in effect preserving the structural integrity of the tank.

These anodes need to be replaced every 5 years or so, else your tank will also begin to rust. If this is not done and your tank rusts, this will transfer to your water. While it doesn’t pose a health risk, no one wants to drink or shower in rusty water.

Left too long, and your tank could split and leak water everywhere! If you notice rusty-looking water, then you might be looking at a water heater failure in the near future if not attended to promptly.

2. Inconsistent Water Temperature

If your hot water system is not heating water consistently like it once was, this is another sign your hot water system is failing. Alternatively, if you find yourself having to change the thermostat frequently, then this could be another sign of failure.

Inconsistent water temperatures could be due to a faulty thermostat, heating element or a number of other components. Leave these faults too long, and it might not be cost-effective to repair them anymore and you might be up for a whole new water heater!

3. Your Hot Water System is Making Unusual Noises

While your hot water system isn’t exactly silent, it certainly shouldn’t be making any banging or rattling noises. Noises like this could be due to a buildup in the storage tank or could be due to a faulty heating element.

These problems can largely be avoided by scheduling regular hot water system services. These services help to identify faults before they become a major problem and affect other components. Left too long, and again these faults can buildup and become severe enough that a whole system replacement is required.

4. Water is Leaking

If you notice water leaking from your hot water system, this is more than just a sign your hot water system is failing – rather it’s already failed! Small leaks can be a sign of early water heater failure, but if you have it serviced promptly, then these can often be repaired. Depending on where the water leak is pooling, it could also cause water damage to your home! If your pressure relief valve is leaking, however, this is typically a sign that it cannot handle the heat and pressure from the storage tank.

Moreover, if you have an electric hot water system, water leaks can also risk electrical shocks. It’s important these leaks are attended to quickly so no one is put at risk from this dangerous environment.

5. There is a Rotten Egg Smell

For gas hot water systems, the smell of rotten eggs is a major sign of hot water system failure. This is the smell of a gas leak.

Gas leaks are flammable and can put your home at risk of fires and explosions. On top of this, your gas bill will also spike to reflect the leak!

Having a fully licensed gas fitter like the plumbers at Metropolitan Plumbing should be your first priority when you smell gas. A gas leak is not a problem that should be ignored.

6. The Pilot Light Flame is Yellow

A yellow pilot light flame on a gas hot water system is a sign that there is not enough oxygen for the flame to combust properly. This is potentially one of the worst signs of your hot water system failing and can have deadly results if not attended to.

When a pilot light is blue, this means it is fully combusting. A yellow flame means incomplete combustion and the potential of producing carbon monoxide. This gas is colourless and odourless and can cause carbon monoxide poisoning. Carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion

In extreme cases, carbon monoxide can even cause death. For this reason, it is critical that your hot water system failure is corrected.

The next time you notice any of these signs of water heater failure, contact Metropolitan Plumbing for our hot water services.


Published: 24 Aug, 2020

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