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5 Signs Your Water Heater May Need Replacing

Note: This post may contain affiliate links. This means that at no cost to you, we may receive a small commission for made purchases.

Unfortunately, issues with hot water can make showers and baths very uncomfortable. If you wash your dishes by hand, having just cold water to wash them in can be frustrating and unsanitary. So, how do you know when your water heater needs replacing? The signs below can be helpful indicators.

Cooler Showers

One of the clear signs of water heater (see also ‘What To Do When A Water Heater Gets Frozen?‘) failure is when you start experiencing warm water instead of the hot water temperature you’re used to getting. If you typically take a shower and start the water at a certain temperature, check to see if the water gets as warm as it normally does. If you’re experiencing water that seems like it is cooler than normal, it may be time to replace your water heater.

Don’t forget to check your pilot light to make sure it is still lit before you assume that not having any hot water is caused by a bad heater. Pilot lights do sometimes go out, and that problem will need to be remedied to achieve proper water temperature once again.

Always take proper precautions if you are working with a gas hot water heater. Make sure you know what you are doing when you try to light the pilot light on your water heater.

Strange Noises

What is that awful noise that starts when the water heater starts up? If you are asking yourself that question, you may have water heater issues.

A water heater that produces strange noises can be a sign of an impending broken water heater but it may also be something completely normal. Different noises can mean different things.

When you combine strange noises with any sort of water leakage around the water heater location, this is a bad sign. Depending on the water heater age, it may just be time to replace the unit.

Rust in the Water

No one wants to have obvious rust in their water, but one of the signs of a water heater that is going bad is the presence of rust when you turn on your hot water tap.

If you turn on your shower or any hot water fixture and notice brown particles in the water, it is a sign that your water heater may be failing. Over time, parts inside the water heater begin to corrode. If it gets bad enough, replacement may be necessary.

Some people may try to treat the rust in their water, thinking that it is solely a rust problem. Oftentimes, their water heater (see also ‘Water Heater Reset Button Keeps Tripping? | Causes & Solutions‘) is just old and outdated and needs replacing. Before you invest in rust treatment products for your water, check the age of your water heater.


Water That Tastes or Smells Bizarre

If you experience a metallic smell or metallic taste in your water, this can also be a sign of trouble. If when turning on your hot water tap you notice a very peculiar and distinct metallic smell while taking a shower or washing dishes, there’s a chance you may have to replace your heater.

Sometimes, hot water can have a rotten egg smell. According to PlumbingToday, replacing the anode rod in your water heater or even having it flushed can help eliminate that terrible odor. Updating to a powered anode rod is best if your budget allows. Be advised that your well can also be the culprit of a sulfur odor. There are whole-house water filters available that can help get rid of the rotten egg odor.

Replacing the anode rod in your water heater or having it flushed may be the first thing to do to help get rid of the odor. But if those steps don’t work, you may want to invest in a good sulfur filtering system for your home.

Hot Water Doesn’t Last

For those times when you have only a bit of hot water and then it turns cold (even though the tank should be full of hot water), you may need to have your water heater checked out or even replaced depending on age. Turning on the tap and having hot water for a much shorter time frame than normal is not a good sign.

There are other causes of having hot water for only a short while, though. With electric models, a heating element that needs replacing inside the tank can cause this problem. It’s much cheaper to replace an element than a water heater, so check for a bad element first.

While the age of your water heater is usually the number one reason replacement may be needed, there are at times other issues where a new model is advised over attempting a costly repair.

author avatar
Anthony Barnes
Anthony Barnes is the founder of Water Heater Hub and a second-generation plumber by profession. Before developing Water Heater Hub, Anthony Barnes was a full-time plumber, and he has undertaken a wide variety of projects over the decades. As a second-generation plumber, it was easy for Anthony to get used to the technicalities of all from a tender age


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