The water heater in your basement might be the last thing on your mind these days, but it shouldn’t be. Many homeowners don’t realize their water heater is about to fail until it’s too late, which can ultimately result in costly water damage.
But don’t sound the alarm just yet. It’s important to correctly identify the warning signs of a failing water heater, and Center Grove Real Estate Inspections has drafted up a quick cheat sheet to help you out.
Step 1: Identify the age of your water heater.
Here’s a safe rule of thumb — most water heaters that have been around longer than 10 years need to be replaced. Not sure how you tell? Start by looking for the serial number, which is often written with a date code. For example, if you see “F061052638,” the tag is referring to June 2006. “F” references the manufacturing month—and the sixth letter in the alphabet—which translates to June. The year is reflected by the second two digits, e.g., “06” for 2006.
Step 2: Check for rusty water.
It can be difficult to determine whether rusty water is caused by your water heater or plumbing. If you have galvanized piping, for example, the issue could be the result of rusty pipes. To make sure your water heater is the root of the problem, start by draining five-gallon buckets of hot water out of the heater. If you continue to see rusty water by the third bucket, it’s more than likely that the water heater is the culprit.
Step 3: Know the noises.
Hissing. Sizzling. Rumbling. None of these are normal sounds, and they could mean that a great deal of sediment has collected in your water heater tank. Make sure to drain the tank, and then remove and soak heating elements in a white vinegar-filled pain for an hour. Following that procedure, scrape off the collected scale.
Step 4: Watch for water buildup
Any moisture buildup around the base of your water heater may indicate a tank leak or fracture. Be sure to check any nearby plumbing fixtures and connections to the tank to make sure they’re not leaking as well. If not, your water heater is likely in need of replacement.