How to Diagnose Water Heater Problems

How to Diagnose Water Heater Problems
November 10, 2011 Lorelie

Water heater problems are usually very annoying as they seem to occur when you need hot water the most, such as when you’re taking a shower or when you’re doing laundry.  Although many symptoms of water heater problems can be identified earlier on, most of the time these symptoms are left ignored.  The truth is some of the water heater problems can be fixed in simple steps.  Despite this, you need to be very careful and take necessary precautions in order not to injure yourself or cause damage to your water heating unit.  In addition, if you are not confident with your do-it-yourself skills, it is simply best to seek the help of a professional technician to identify and solve your water heater problems for you.

Diagnosing and troubleshooting water heater problem is easy if you understand the inner working to how your water heater works.  Reading the manual of your unit or doing some research over the internet will help you gain basic understanding.  In fact, you will be surprised to find out how easy it is to diagnose some of the common water heater problems and how easy they are to repair.  Some of these repairs can be accomplished yourself which in turn will allow you to save money on plumber bills.

When making any diagnostics or repair on your water heating unit, always make sure to turn off the gas or electricity as well as its water supply.

Water Heater Leak – the dripping of water or pooling of water underneath your water heating units is perhaps the most common type of water heater problem.  This type of problem can occur from a multitude of places or connections in your system.  If such problem only occurs during the cold season, then the problem might only be due to condensation.  However, if it occurs even during the summer months, then expect to have a leaking problem.  Tightening certain bolts and connections will usually help to solve the problem.

Most water heater leak problems occur from either a loose or faulty temperature/pressure relief valve, or from the unit’s drain valve.  Replacing these is both easy and inexpensive.  On electric water heating units, the problem sometimes fall with the gaskets.

A leaking water heater is truly a big problem, especially if the source of the leak cannot be easily fixed.  Corrosion is the archenemy of storage tank water heaters and if the unit has corroded enough to have leaks, replacing the water heater unit would be the best course of action.  This is because repairing the unit will only show more signs of corrosion in the unit and this rust will only get progressively worse.

Extreme Temperatures (Too Hot or Too Cold) – when the temperature is not to your liking, usually, adjusting the thermostat of your water heating unit will usually do the trick.  However, if this does not work, you will need to determine if there is something wrong with your thermostat.  Try to determine if the thermostat has current.  If it has current, then the thermostat is faulty and needs to be replaced. Although this is easy to replace and replacing it yourself can be very tempting, if your water heater unit is still under warranty it is suggested to have it serviced instead as replacing the thermostat yourself can be deemed as modifying the unit and thereby void any warranty.

If the water coming from your water heater is too cold and you have determined that the thermostat is working, the problem possibly lies with the dip tube.  The dip tube is simply a plastic tube and can be located near the cold water inlet.  If the dip tube is busted, it will let incoming cold water to mix in with the already heated water.  Replacing the dip tube will do the trick.

Water Heating Unit Makes Strange Sounds – this is perhaps the easiest way to determine if your water heater has signs of impending problems.  If your unit has any banging, gurgling, or popping sound, then the problem lies with the hard sediments, lime and scale buildup inside your tank.  In order to avoid such accumulation and prevent the deterioration of your water heater, it is highly recommended to flush your storage tank water heater at least every six months.  Flushing will help to remove the sediments that could potentially become the scaly deposits inside the tank.  However, if your tank has already a buildup of over six inches, it is recommended to simply replace your water heater unit.  This is actually much better as such buildup will make the water heater very inefficient.

Water Has Rotting Smell – this kind of smell in the water comes from bacteria inside the water heater.  This foul smell is produced when the bacteria reacts with the anode rod inside the unit.  Often, magnesium and aluminum anode rods are responsible in catalyzing this foul smell.  The smelly water is also somehow connected when the water being used in the water heater is from a well system.  Using water softener is highly discouraged at this point as this will only increase the foul smelling problem.  Although water softeners are known for helping to get rid of lime buildup inside a storage tank water heater, they can however contribute to smelly water, especially when the insides of the tank already has the bacteria that produces the foul smelling odor.  In order to get rid of the problem, flush the unit with diluted hydrogen peroxide or bleach and replace the current anode rod with a zinc-aluminum anode rod.

Delayed Hot Water – the long delay of heated water before running through your tap could be the result of long water pipelines.  This problem can be improved by properly insulating the water pipelines.  However, a good way to solve this problem is to have a professional plumber install a hot water recirculating pump or maybe a point-of-use tankless water heater.

Although there are other types of water heater problems, the few listed above are just some of the most common types.

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