• Howard Gallagher

How to Tell if You Need a New Water Heater

Updated: May 1

You know how that old saying goes, “out of sight, out of mind.” There’s a reason old cliches still hit home when we hear them because more often than not they are true.

This is particularly true when it comes to your water heater.

As long as your hot water is running well what more would you think about when it comes to your water heater?

Tucked away somewhere in your basement that giant aluminum behemoth is regulating the water temperature all throughout your home, usually for years without ever being replaced or maintained.

Just like any other mechanical system in your home it needs to be maintained regularly. Getting inspections done at least once a year helps to ensure there are no defective or potentially dangerous issues.

In the meantime, whether you are deciding to get your water heater inspected or recently had it looked at there are some telltale signs that your water heater is not functioning properly.

Most Common Water Heater Issues

Not Enough Hot Water

Some indicators of a faulty water heater are evident only once there is an issue while others can only be identified by checking the system itself.

One of the most common water heater problems people come across is too little water.

If your water heater is not producing enough water this can be easily fixed by turning up the temperature on the thermostat located on your tank.

Keep in mind that turning up the heat too high can be dangerous because of potential scalding.

No Hot Water

Nothing will ruin your day faster than waking up heading into the shower only to be covered with ice-cold water.

It gives me chills just thinking about it.

If you’ve ever shared the same misfortune then there are a few simple reasons why. Now, depending on whether you have an electric or gas-powered water heater will determine which solution will work out best for you.

Electric water heaters use heating elements and thermocouples, while water heaters that are gas-powered most likely have an issue that has to do with your pilot light having been blown out.

The thermocouple; the sensor used to measure temperature, may have been damaged or your pilot control valve could be faulty.

Even though there are DIY methods available to fix the problem, without proper training as a plumbing professional it’ll be highly difficult to resolve the problem without guaranteeing something else will be affected.

Based on the issue and the circumstances it would be best to ask for professional help so that you can be confident your water heater is secure.

Smelly Water

The worst part about there being something smelly lingering in your home is identifying where the smell is coming from.

You could spend hours just trying to figure out what the source of the odor is and where in the world you’ll find it.

When your hot water has become smelly it is because it has become infected with some sort of bacteria.

Fortunately, you can readily identify the problem with your hot water due to the rotten egg smell it omits.

This odor is normally caused by the anaerobic bacteria that exist in some water and react with the sulfur, magnesium, and aluminum sacrificial anodes that come with the water heater. These chemicals in conjunction with each other are able to produce the hydrogen sulfide gas which is the source of the rotten egg smell.

Removing the anode would get rid of the odor but will cause your water heater to rust exponentially faster.

A simple method you can use yourself is to shut off the valve, release pressure by opening another hot water faucet in the house, then use hydrogen peroxide to flush the system.

A Noisy Water Tank

Another common issue homeowners will come across when dealing with their water heater is noise.

From time to time your water heater will collect sediments at the base of the tank. These sediments after a while get burned by the heating element of the system. Additionally, if your heating element is nearing its limit then that can be another cause of the noise coming from your water heater.

In the case that your heating element is on the verge of no longer being of use it is best to ask for a professional to handle the job.

Heating elements can be tricky and complicated systems that require proper training from those who are fit and licensed to perform that level of system repair.

Leaking Tank

The most definitive way to tell that it is time to buy a new water heater is when you see the water heater leaking.

At this point, your water heater has reached its limit and can no longer produce hot water. Next, turn off the water and power to the water heater, this will help prevent further water damage.

Your best bet will be to replace the water heater as fast as you can. It does not matter if the leak is a little trickle or even worse, any signs of a leak can not be ignored and require immediate attention.

Calling a professional to come and drain your 30-60 gallon tank will be the next logical step in resolving this issue. Attempting to drain the tank on your own will be highly daunting, hiring a professional will save a lot of time and unwarranted effort.

If the leak was originating from the temperature/pressure valve or the drain valve, it's highly likely that your water heater can be repaired.

Types of Water Heaters

Nowadays there are plenty of options available when it comes to choosing a new water heater. There are plenty of various technologies used when it comes to heating up the water in your home.

Finding a water heater that best fits your needs can be boiled down to a few things: the capacity of the water heater, glass-lined (prevents corrosion of the steel inside), digital displays, anti-scale devices (prevents mineral build-up), length of the warranty, and whether you prefer plastic vs brass drain valves.


The most common type of water heater homeowners have come across is the large metal tanks designed to store large amounts of heated water at any given time.

Fitted with two valves; temperature and pressure. The temperature valve opens to release heat but also has the ability to regulate the temperature when the water has reached over 120 degrees Fahrenheit.

As for the pressure valve, once the pressure in your water heater reaches over 120 degrees the pressure is dropped.

Conventional styled water heaters are typically less expensive and are pretty easy to install.

Tankless Water Heater

Commonly known as an on-demand water heater, the tankless heater can provide a nearly endless supply of hot water whenever you need it.

There are super-heated coils that fill with water and heat water in a flash as you need it, which is why it is alternatively known as an on-demand water heater.

When considering purchasing a tankless water heater system it's important to factor in the size in relation to the size of your home.

Heat Pump Water Heater

This is a hybrid water heater that helps save you more money on electricity bills since it does not directly generate heat. Heat is transferred from the air and the ground to heat the water that you use in your home.

Since the energy used to produce the heat does not directly come from the electricity used in your home you are saving a significant amount on your electric bill.

On average heat pump water heaters use up to 60% less energy than traditional water heaters.

With that being said these types of energy-saving water heaters are cost-effective in the long run and are just as durable as a conventional water heater.

Keeping your heat pump water heater regularly maintained just like any other water heater improves the lifespan of your appliance as well as ensuring it is running optimally year-round.

Solar Powered

Alternative forms of energy are becoming more readily available or consumers nowadays in a variety of ways.

By drawing its energy directly from the sun, a solar-powered water heater is highly energy-efficient and is a great add on to homes already using solar power as its energy source.

If your home has solar panels on the roofing this is a great chance to save money on multiple appliances in your home while reducing your energy expenditure. Ultimately, keep costs and energy output down keeps your home running optimally.

As a contingency, it is important to have a backup energy source on cloudy days when sunlight is not as bright. Utilizing electricity or other natural gases are great ways to generate heat when sunlight is limited.

Condensing Water Heater

Considered to be the most energy-efficient method, using a condensed water heater saves you tons of money each year on energy costs.

A condensed water heater utilizes the unused gas fumes produced by your home. By funneling natural gas through a coil placed at the bottom of the tank the water inside is then heated for use much like a conventional water heater.

Just like any other water heater, you will need to run regular maintenance checks throughout the year to make sure you are gaining the most use out of the lifespan of your appliance.

This option is best suited for larger families that have natural gas as an energy source, also the tanks for this style of water heater do not run small, the average size starts around 50 gallons.

Best Practices

One tip for ensuring that your water heater is protected is to have a warranty on your water heater in case anything happens. Most manufacturer warranties do not cover your water heater for its entire life span, typically within a year or two, your warranty expires.

The cost of repairs and replacements for a water heater can be upwards of $1000. Having a home warranty can help cover the cost of repair and replacement not only for your water heater but multiple appliances and systems in your home.

Global Home Protection has plans for as low as $1 a day to help you cover the things that matter most to you and your family.