Four Signs Your Hot Water Heater Is On Its Way Out

Waking up one day to find that you have no hot water is never pleasant. The thing is, hot water heaters almost never fail without giving you some advanced warning that they're going to do so. If you watch out for these warning signs, you'll become aware that your hot water heater is on its way out before it fails completely – so you can have it replaced before you're subjected to a morning of cold showers.

Water pooling under the hot water heater.

Even a few drops of water under the water heater tank are not a good sign. There may be rust in the bottom of the tank that has caused a pin-size hole to form. Or, the leak might be coming from a valve that has become leaky due to increased pressure within the unit. There's a chance the offending problem can be repaired in this case, but you'll want to call your plumber now rather than later, since allowing the leak to become worse will increase your risk of complete water heater failure plus a flooded basement.

The flame is yellow, not blue.

If you have a gas hot water heater, take a peek at the flame from time to time. If it is yellow rather than blue, this means it's not burning hot enough. There could just be a problem with your gas line, but there's also a chance the burner is on its way out. Replacing a burner in a hot water heater is an expensive and involved endeavor, so most people just choose to replace the tank at this point. If you keep waiting, that yellow flame will get cooler and cooler until your water's not heating at all.

There's rust in your water.

The interiors of hot water tanks are coated in a rust-proofing agent, but eventually this can wear away. If the inside of the tank is beginning to rust, then your hot water might start taking on a rusty color or odor. It's definitely time to replace the tank at this point. You don't want to keep bathing or washing clothes in rusty water, and it's only a matter of time before that rust extends all the way through the tank and leads to a major leak and water heater failure.

The water is not as hot as it once was.

Is your water warm, but not nearly as warm as it used to be with your hot water heater on the same temperature setting? The burner (or heating element if you have an electric heater) is probably giving up the ghost. Cranking up the temperature will just make the heater work harder and cause it to completely fail faster. It's only a matter of time before your water won't be warm at all.

If you notice any of the above issues, contact your plumber sooner rather than later.