How to Solve Some Water Heater Problems

How to Solve Some Water Heater Problems
September 1, 2011 Lorelie

Water heaters are definitely a good investment for any home because they offer the convenience of providing you with heated water any time you need them. This heated water is especially helpful when you live in cold regions where you would surely like to take a bath using heated water instead of cold tap water. Not only is heated water calming and relaxing, but it also ensures that you do not get a shock from having to bathe using cold water. In fact, heated water is not used primarily for bathing on many homes, but it is also being used for washing clothes and dishes. There are times though that your water heater may experience some problems such as the buildup of lime as well as the nasty smell of rotten eggs. Many of these water heater problems can be removed through extensive maintenance.

Buildup of Lime in the Tank

Often times, it is difficult to know how much lime buildup is in your tank, especially since they are not equipped with a porthole where you can view the inside. However, you can make rough estimates of this lime buildup simply by considering the age of your water heater as well as the water hardness of your area. For example, a 5-year old water heater using water with hardness of around 20 grams will roughly have a lime buildup of about 5 – 10 inches at the tank’s bottom.

One of the good indicators that your tank has a buildup of lime would be popping and bubbling sounds when water is being heated. The truth is the buildup of lime can cause serious problems on the efficiency of your water heater as the heating capacity of your water heater is greatly reduced. This is because many of the heating elements of the water heating unit is covered or submerged in sediments thereby reducing efficiency. However, the most serious problems that this buildup of lime can cause to your water heater would be the growth of molds or corrosion which can make your tank leak over time.

One of the best ways to reduce the buildup of lime in the tank of your water heater would be to use water softeners. Water softeners have the capacity to eliminate any buildup that occurs in your unit. These days, water heater manufacturers claim they have solved the lime buildup on water heaters through their self cleaning system. This feature is said to keep the water stirred inside the tank which in turn prevents sediments from accumulating on the sides and bottom. Although this can work to some extent, it is best not to rely on it too much.

Some manufacturers suggest draining your water heater regularly as they claim that this will significantly help to reduce the buildup of lime. However, lime can be very hard to remove especially if the drain of your tank is not situated at the bottom center. Lime is much heavier than water which is why it often settles at the bottom of the tank. It will not move simply by emptying the tank. Another thing is that lime often form chunks measuring over an inch in size. Since the drain of the tank is only half an inch in size, these chunks will not be able to pass through the drain hole. They even clog the drain most of the times making draining your water tank a very time consuming process. For these reasons, draining your water tank is not highly advised or recommended. Often times, doing such breaks the drain valves, yet lime still remains inside the tank. This is why it is recommended to simply use water softeners instead of draining the tank regularly.

If you have a lime buildup of over 6-inches in your tank, it is simply best to replace your water heater. Newer water heaters are more efficient and will eventually pay for themselves in the long run. Water heaters are not that pricey and they can be replaced by professionals in a few hours.

Smelly Water

The rotting smell of egg in the water is often caused by bacteria in the water heater. These bacteria produce this foul smelling odor as they react with the anode rod of your water heater. Mostly, it is the aluminum and magnesium anode rods that catalyze this foul smelling odor. Smelly water is often found on water heaters of buildings that are connected to a well system. Using water softeners will only help to increase the stench problem.

There are experienced plumbers who have a solution for this – removing the anode rod from your water heater. The main drawback to this fix is that it voids the warranty of your water heating unit and that it also significantly decreases its life span. There are also some misconceptions that replacing the current aluminum anode rod with a magnesium type (and vice versa) will help to solve the problem. The truth is this solution is hardly effective as both types of anode rods react with the bacteria that causes the foul odor.

To get rid of the rotten egg smell in the water, you need to change the magnesium anode rod or aluminum anode rod with a zinc-aluminum anode rod. Although this type of rod is mostly made from aluminum, the addition of zinc in the anode rod will help to fight of the rotting egg odor. The best part about these rods is they are fairly inexpensive and can be a long term solution in fighting smelly water. Zinc-aluminum anode rods can be installed by most local plumbers.

Water softeners are known for helping to get rid of lime deposits in your tank, but they on the other hand can help to contribute to smelly water. Even if you have a zinc-aluminum anode rod, the smell will not go if you use a water softener. This however can be solved by using a powered anode rod. A powered anode rod operates by releasing small electric current on the water instead of having full contact with the water, thus preventing the water in your water heater from having a foul smell. The only drawback is that powered anode rods are fairly expensive. Nevertheless, if you do not like smelly water and still wants to use water softener to prevent the buildup of lime in your tank, then the powered anode rod may be your only solution.

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