How to Prevent Common Water Heater Problems

Hot water heaters don’t require a lot in terms of maintenance, but when they don’t work properly, it can cause huge inconveniences at home; like trying to wash dishes in cold water or not having enough hot water to take a shower!

Below, we’ve outlined some of the most common water heater problems we get calls about, and then go over solutions and ways that you can help prevent them! Solutions range from a little TLC from you to calling in a professional for water heater repair or replacement.

Water Doesn’t Get Hot Enough

If you find that your water isn’t getting as hot as it used to or as hot as you need it to, there’s likely an issue with your water heater. Before you hire a professional, make sure that the temperature control switch is where it’s supposed to be. 120 degrees is the recommended setting, but it’s possible you have it higher or it got turned down. Sometimes just an accidental bump to the unit can throw settings off and make your water colder. If the temperature setting looks good, it’s perhaps time to call an expert.

No Hot Water

If you find yourself running out of hot water faster than you used to, your hot water heater is likely the culprit. It could be that you’ve increased the size of your household, or the fact that everyone’s been spending more time at home, but you need more hot water than what you’re getting. If that’s the case, it might be time for a water heater replacement, or perhaps you just need water heater repair. Either way, we suggest calling in a professional plumber!

Leaky Water Heater

If you’ve discovered puddles of water or dried water marks around your hot water heater, call a plumber right away. Even a small leak in your water heater can quickly become a big problem.

How to Maintain Your Water Heater

Regular water heater maintenance every few months will do wonders for your appliance. It will make sure your hot water heater is running as efficiently as possible, help you stay ahead of repairs, and you’ll ultimately go longer without having to replace it! Below are some simple, routine maintenance items you can do to make sure your water heater stays in top-top shape:

  • Maintain clearance: Most water heaters need about 2 feet of clearance on all sides (unless otherwise indicated in your owner’s manual) so make sure you don’t have boxes or clutter around your unit.
  • Check the temperature settings: As noted above, 120 degrees is the recommended setting, but you’ll save about 5% in heating costs for every 10 degrees that you turn it down. Just make sure you have the setting where you want and/or need it to be!
  • Test the temperature release valve: Discharge the valve 3 to 5 times, then keep an eye out for leaks in and around it. If you notice it leaking, call a plumber!
  • Drain your water heater: You only need to drain about ¼ to ⅓ of the tank a few times a year to remove any built up sediment or other debris. Read our How to Drain Your Water Heater post for a full walkthrough on how you can do this yourself!

Water Heater Help in Santa Cruz!

If you’re worried about your water heater and have experienced any of the common water heater issues we went over, reach out to us at Rosenthal Plumbing! We’d be more than happy to inspect your water heater in Santa Cruz or the surrounding area and can even provide that routine maintenance we talked about if you’re unsure about tackling it yourself. Give us a call today!

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Should I Get a Tank or Tankless Water Heater?

Are you in the market for a new water heater? If so, you’ll want to choose between conventional water heaters and the newer, tankless versions.

Conventional water heaters hold your hot water in a large, cylindrical tank and use energy to keep that water warm until you need it. Tankless water heaters heat the water as you need it.

Conventional Water Heaters: The Pros and Cons

Conventional water heaters are less expensive to purchase and install and they are simpler, which makes water heater repair easier and cheaper.

However, these water heaters are more expensive to use. You’ll waste a lot of energy (and a lot of money paying for that energy!) just keeping your hot water hot in between the times when you’re using it.

Conventional water heaters can also only hold so much water. If you regularly need more than about three showers worth of hot water, this may not be the best option for you.

Finally, conventional water heaters usually only last 10-15 years. The lifespan may be shorter in areas with hard water.

Tankless Water Heaters: The Pros and Cons

A tankless hot water heater saves you up to 25% on your energy costs each month. Since it will also last for 20-30 years, it could easily pay for itself over its lifespan.

A tankless water heater can also get you as much hot water as you need. Because it heats water on demand, it can simply keep heating until your hot water needs are met.

The tankless hot water heater takes up much less space in your home because it doesn’t have a massive tank to store water.

However, a tankless water heater costs significantly more than a conventional one. It may not be able to heat water fast enough to keep up with your needs at peak usage times, and tankless water heater installation may require paying to move and restructure existing piping.

Call Rosenthal for Your New Water Heater Today

Our plumbing experts can help you choose the best new water heater for your situation. We’ll install it, too, so you can be 100% sure that you’ll have the hot water you need again soon!

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How Long Do Water Heaters Last?

We get quite a few calls from people asking how long a water heater should last. It’s an important question as some people want to know how long they can expect their current water heater to last while others want to be proactive and get theirs replaced before any problems occur.

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Water Heater Lifespans

Most water heaters can last anywhere between 6 and 13 years. If your water heater is more than 12 years old, you should expect it to fail any time. The lifespan of your water heater depends on a few things:

  • Water Quality: Lower water quality means more minerals are being trapped in the tank and parts, which causes more buildup and can decrease a water heater’s lifespan.
  • Water Heater Maintenance: Whether this is performed by a professional or you undertake it yourself, regular maintenance can significantly extend the life of your water heater. 
  • Water Heater Repair: The longer you wait to repair your water heater when it isn’t working properly, the more likely it is to cause lasting damage to you water heat and shorten its lifespan.

Common Water Heater Issues

With such a wide lifespan range, how can you know when you need to replace your water heater? Ultimately, it’s your decision, but there are a few things to look out for that indicate your water heater is having issues:

  • Your water is a strange color or seems tinted. This is often an indication that there’s rust in your water heater, which means it’s nearly time to replace it.
  • There are strange sounds coming from your water heater. Strange noises can indicate that sediment has built up inside your tank.
  • There’s water under your water heater. If you see signs of dampness, your water heater has a leak somewhere.
  • You get intermittent hot water. This can indicate a number of different issues, most of which are best solved by replacing your water heater. 
  • You have less hot water than you had before. This typically mans that one of your tanks isn’t working. Replacing the heater can actually be easier than getting a new tank.

These problem don’t always determine whether or not it’s time to replacing your current water heater, but they do indicate it is at least time for maintenance or repairs. We recommend contacting a professional plumber to look at your water heater and find the best solutions, before these issues get worse.

Is It Time for Water Heater Replacement?

Eventually your water heater will need to be replaced, no matter how much love and service you’ve invested. But how do you when to throw in the towel and seek water heater replacement services? Here are some things to think about when you’re deciding if it’s actually time for a new water heater:

  • How much are you spending on repairs? As water heaters get older, they often require more and more frequent repairs. Over time, you can spend more on repairs than you would spend on a new water heater. If you feel like you’re calling plumbers for your water heater a lot, ask about replacement instead. Our plumbers will be able to tell you how much a new heater will cost you and whether it might be a good idea for you.
  • Is your water heater the right size? A water heater that’s too small is annoying. You may not be able to shower and run your dishwasher at the same time, for instance. If you are struggling with a water heater that’s not the right size for your home or your family, it may be time to get a new one.
  • Does your water get hot enough? If you like your water pretty hot and it’s just not getting there, it may be time to replace your water heater. Give us a call. We’ll come out and let you know if your water heater problems are repairable or if your heater is just getting older and not working quite so well.
  • How old is your water heater? Most water heaters are built to last around 6-12 years. If yours is older than that, it may be time to think about replacing it. While some people like to wait until the current heater stops working, the truth is that this is a big hassle. If your heater is old, think about replacing it before you run out of hot water entirely.
  • How high are your utility bills? Older water heaters don’t work as efficiently as many of the newer ones. This means that you will spend more on your utilities with an older heater. If you feel like your utility bills are out of control, it may be time to consider getting a new water heater.

Santa Cruz Water Heater Experts

If you’d like to talk about replacing your water heater, give us a call. Our experienced Santa Cruz plumbers will look at your current heater and give you their expert opinion. If you decide to replace your heater right now, we’ll help you select one that is the right size and type for your home and your needs. Then, we’ll help get it ordered, delivered, and installed according to the manufacturer’s specifications.

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How to Drain a Water Heater

Most water heaters should be drained every 6 months or so. Even if you haven’t worked on yours for a long time, though, you can help your water heater last longer if you flush it now. Here’s what you need to know about how to flush a water heater so you can keep yours in great shape for a long time.

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1. Quick Flush the Water Heater

Attach a hose to the drain valve and open it briefly while the power is still on. This should flush sediment from the water heater. Repeat if a lot of sediment comes out.

2. Turn Off the Power

Turn the gas to “Pilot” or turn off the electricity at the breaker and unplug the water heater. Turn off the water flow into the water heater, too.

3. Open the Drain Valve

Open the drain valve. Make sure your hose is draining into a bucket or straight into your sewer line. Move the hot water pipe at the top of the heater around until it lets air into the tank. You’ll know this has occurred when water rushes out of the heater.

4. Flush the Tank

Turn on the water for a few seconds, then let it drain out. Repeat until the water that comes out does not contain any sediment.

5. Refill the Water Heater

Close the drain valve and disconnect the hose. Make sure everything is connected the way it was when you started the process. Turn the water for water heater back on. Then turn on a hot water tap in the house (most people use the hot water in the bathtub). As soon as the air is out of the line and you just have water flowing from that tap, turn it off.

6. Turn On the Power

Turn the electricity back on or relight the pilot light. You will need to wait an hour or so before you will have reliable hot water again.

7. Check Your Drain Valve

Look for leaks around the drain valve. If you have some, you may be able to put a cap on the valve to stop the leak. If that doesn’t work, you may want to replace the valve entirely.

Water Heater Help in Santa Cruz

And that’s how to drain a hot water heater! If you run into any problems or you don’t have time to tackle this project yourself, call us at Rosenthal Plumbing. Our expert plumbers will get your water heater flushed fast!

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