Failing hot water heaters can be a source of icy cold showers at best, and thousands of dollars worth of water damage at worst. In July of 2015, for example, a malfunctioning safety valve caused a standard 30 gallon hot water heater to burst and release 2,000 gallons of water, affecting about 12,000 square feet of the Union County Government Center in Lewisburg, PA. The estimated $100,000 worth of damage serves as a good reminder that hot water heaters should not be “out of sight, out of mind,” for homeowners.


Water Heater


Here are the top signs that it may be time to replace your unit:

1. Leaks

No matter how new or old your water heater, leaks are not something to play around with. Slow leaks can go unnoticed until they cause major structural damage to your home, and sudden, major leaks can unleash thousands of gallons of water in a matter of hours. Signs of impending leaks include developing corrosion, moisture or mold around the base of the water heater or the pipes leading to it. While it may be tempting to patch up an ailing unit, replacement is the better course of action.

2. Age and Usage

If your water heater is over 10 years old and gets regular use, it’s already reached its life expectancy. Once your warranty expires, it’s a good idea to either proactively replace your hot water heater or step up your inspection schedule. You’ll want to check for leaks, flush the tank to get rid of any sediment build-up, and check the condition of the anode rod (which protects the tank from rust) at least twice a year. And if you have no idea how old your hot water heater is…it’s probably time to replace your hot water heater.

3. Water Temperature Issues

If your hot water heater is producing only lukewarm water, producing hot water in ever-diminishing quantities, or taking a long time to heat water, its heating element or burner may be failing due to age or sediment build-up. Heating elements and burners can be replaced, but this may or may not be worth it, depending on the age of your tank.

4. Metallic Taste or Visible Rust

Hot water that smells or tastes like iron, or that has a reddish-brown tinge, indicates that your water heater’s inner tank is corroding. Once this process starts, it’s nearly impossible to reverse.

5. Steady Stream of Repairs

If you’ve already made several repairs to your hot water heater, and new issues keep cropping up on a regular basis, it may be time to consider replacing it. Several minor issues over the course of 12 to 18 months can indicate that major failure is likely in the near future.

According to Consumer Affairs, water damage from malfunctioning hot water heaters is one of the two top sources of water-based insurance claims (with washing machines being the other culprit.) Regular maintenance and timely replacement can help keep your hot water heater from causing major headaches for you and your household.

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About the Author: is a full-service home remodeling and construction general contractor serving the greater Seattle, Denver, Phoenix, San Francisco, and San Jose area. Home improvement is hard, and we make it easier for you every step of the way. That starts by understanding your goals, whether it’s making a space more livable, expanding your home, repairing damage, adding room for relatives, or something completely different. We’ll work with you to ensure you’re happy with the project from start to finish.