Your water heater is one of the most important appliances in your home for your family’s comfort. Unfortunately, water heaters will wear out and need replacement like any other appliance. Recognizing that your water heater is about to fail will help you avoid being stuck for days without warm water. Here are four signs it may be time to replace your water heater.

1. Rusty Tank or Water

Because the tank of your water heater is constantly in contact with water, there is always a risk of corrosion. It is not uncommon for rust to form on the outside of a water heater’s tank, around inlet valves, and on the tank’s interior. You may also notice that your home’s water is reddish in color or even contains flakes of rust.

There is usually nothing that can be done to save a water heater with a rusted tank. Rust on the tank is an indicator that the protective glass layer inside the tank has been compromised, and the tank will likely begin to leak soon. However, you may be able to repair the heater if rust is only found on the heating element, entry valves, or other small replaceable components.

2. Noise During Use

The water that passes through your water heater will always contain sediments, minerals, and other impurities. Over time, these impurities can settle in the bottom of the tank and create a hardened sediment layer. If you hear a banging or rumbling noise while you use your water heater, sediment has probably built up to the point that it could damage the unit.

The biggest danger of sediment buildup is overheating that can damage the tank. Sediment can create an insulative layer on the bottom of the tank above the heating element. This can lead to overheating that causes the tank to deteriorate. It is a good idea to hire a plumber to inspect your heater and determine whether draining and flushing is an option, or whether the tank has been damaged and must be replaced.

3. Leaking

A pool of water around the base of your water heater is never a good sign. Leaks from your water heater can be caused by a damaged tank, but they may also be the result of leaky fittings, valves, or pipes. A water heater leak should never be ignored, as most tanks hold tens of gallons of water and will constantly draw more water from the main as the water in the tank leaks out.

There are several different factors that can lead to water heater leaks. Water inlet pressure that is too high can cause the tank or fittings to crack, corrosion in the tank can lead to leaks, or a thermostat that is set too high can increase pressure and wear until leaks occur. It is often a good idea to shut off water and power to your heater and drain the tank until the leak is located and fixed or the unit is replaced.

4. Old Age

If you know the age of your water heater, you can anticipate when it will need to be replaced even if you don’t notice any problems. The average lifespan of a tank-type water heater is 8 to 12 years, while tankless heaters can last over 20 years. Water heaters that are nearing the end of their life expectancy will begin to lose efficiency and require more frequent repairs.

Many homeowners don’t know the age of their water heater, especially if the heater was already installed when they moved into their home. Fortunately, you can look at the label on any water heater to find its serial number and determine its age. The first letter of the serial number indicates the month the heater was manufactured — “A” for January through “L” for December — and the following two numbers denote the year.

Keep these signs of water heater failure in mind so that you can replace your heater before it creates an inconvenience. Contact us at Lakeside Heating & Air Conditioning if you have problems with your water heater so our certified professionals can assist you with water heater repair or installation.