In some parts of the world, hot water is a luxury. Cold showers are the norm for these blessedly warm climates. For the rest of us, a water heater failure spells disaster. Here are six ways water heaters fail and how you can minimize the risk of taking a cold shower in the middle of winter.
Sediment buildup in tank
Over time, the small particles and dissolved contents in your water supply will collect inside your tank. This is less of a problem for tankless heaters but piping can also develop buildup so you’re not completely in the clear. Regular maintenance includes cleaning the tank and if you live in an area with hard water, your entire plumbing system, including your water heater, will benefit from a water softener.
Tanks contain rods that act as sacrificial anodes, meaning that they corrode more easily than the tank itself, keeping it safe. However, these anodes eventually need to be replaced or your tank will corrode. Piping connections can also rust so be on the lookout for corroded pipes and call in a plumber to repair or replace if needed.
Incorrect water pressure
Water pressure that exceeds the recommended limit can cause your water heater components to fail prematurely. Discuss with your plumber if you’re concerned about the water pressure in your area. You may need to install a pressure reducing valve to control the pressure entering your heater.
Not enough combustion air
This is both a cause of reduced heating and safety risk. If your gas-fired water heater isn’t getting enough combustion air, you can get increased carbon monoxide production. Keep the space around your heater free from clutter and if you’re concerned about the internal operation of your heater and its combustion ability, let a professional investigate it.
Buildup on heating elements
Similar to a buildup in your tank, a buildup of hard water deposits can prevent electrical heating elements from transferring heat to your water. Keeping these clean will keep your heater going and reduce the risk of electrical problems and complete failure.
Your water heater has a built-in thermostat to shut the heating on and off to maintain the water temperature in the tank. If it doesn’t shut off your water can get overheated and can put you at risk of scalding. Alternatively, it may not turn on your heating enough, lowering your tank temperature which causes bacteria to propagate in addition to colder water at your faucets.