How to Detect Electric Water Heater Problems

Knowing your electric water heater won’t last forever gives you all the incentive you need to keep a watchful eye on it.

Just to put some numbers to it, your water heater has a projected lifespan of 10-12 years (up to 20 years if you have a tankless system).  Once it hits 6 or 7 years old, problems are more likely to occur. But, by keeping an eye on things, you’ll be able to spot early warning signs and have them checked out before repair problems get worse.

These are the primary indications that trouble is brewing in your electric water heater:

Water Leaking from the Top

If you see or suspect water is leaking from the top of your electric water heater, it probably means the cold inlet or hot outlet pipes are loose, that the T&P valve has failed, or the inlet valve is leaking.  These are all very fixable issues.

Water Leaking from the Bottom

This could be caused by something as simple as normal condensation.  But water leaking from the bottom of your electric water heater also could indicate a leaking gasket or that a small amount of water has been expelled through the overflow pipe.  Worst case scenario, the leak stems from internal tank corrosion.  If that’s the case, you’ll need to replace your system.

No Hot Water

Several possibilities here.  First, the circuit breaker may have tripped – the ultimate easy fix.  Or, perhaps the heating elements have failed or there’s an issue with the thermostat’s limit/reset switch.  If the unit has power, try re-setting the switch.  If that fails to deliver the desired result, you’ll probably need to call a plumber.

Not Enough Hot Water

If you’re running out of hot water at all, or faster than you recall, chances are there’s a problem with your system’s thermostat.  During the cold weather months, raising the thermostat might be enough to solve the problem.  On most models, you’ll find the thermostat on one side of the tank in a compartment and behind a layer of insulation.

Dirty or Rust-Colored Water

Rusty hot water usually indicates corrosion on the walls of storage tank or what’s called the sacrificial anode rod.  The latter is so named because it’s “job” is to sacrifice itself to internal corrosion to spare the storage tank.  Either way – storage tank or anode rod – call your plumber once you notice rusty water to have the exact cause diagnosed.

Smelly Hot Water

The likely culprit?  Bacteria inside the tank, which can easily be flushed out.

If your water heater – electric, gas, tankless, or heat pump – is not up to its usual high-performing self, contact Arnold & Sons Plumbing & Drains today for prompt scheduling, expert problem diagnosis, plus a guaranteed upfront price quote on the work we recommend.