Water heaters are an integral part of our life, but over time they’ll wear out. By nature, water eventually wears away at your tank and causes leaks, heating elements simply wear out with use, and plenty of other issues will eventually take hold as time goes by. While water heaters have improved significantly over the years, their lifespan is still surprisingly short compared to other appliances: around eight years on average. However, you may want to start to consider switching your water heater around six years due to a number of factors that may contribute to increased wear and tear.
How do you know when it’s time to replace your water heater? While the only way to know for sure is to have your system inspected by a professional Fort Worth plumber, there are a few signs of trouble with your tank that you absolutely need to know about. Regularly checking on your heater and looking for these signs can help you jump on a problem quickly and prevent it from escalating into an emergency that could cause serious damage to your home.
Sign #1: Water in the Drain Pan Beneath Your Tank
Water heater leaks aren’t always sudden and obvious—in fact, most of the time they’re exactly the opposite. Usually a leak is so slow and small that the only signs of it are a few drips here and there in the drain pan beneath your water heater itself. However, what starts small rarely stays that way, and before long a leak can grow and expand to the point where it’s a steady stream of drips, and then a larger stream that threatens serious damage to your home. If you start regularly seeing drops in your drain pan, call a Fort Worth plumber right away and have your tank inspected—there’s a good chance you may need to replace your tank immediately in order to avoid a major leak that could damage your home.
Sign #2: Decreased Hot Water Production
Does it seem like your water heater tank just can’t keep up with your needs anymore? Do you find that about halfway through your morning shower that your water starts to steadily cool off until there’s no hot water left? This could indicate one or more of a large number of problems, but it almost always signals that time is short for your water heater. In many cases this is a sign of significant sediment buildup in the bottom of your tank—an issue that’s pretty common, especially if you have hard water. On a similar note, if you find that your energy costs have gone up quite a bit recently for no apparent reason, it could be because your water heater is burning a lot of extra fuel to try and overcome this sediment layer that’s acting like an insulation barrier in order to heat the water.
Sign #3: Frequent Pilot Light Issues
If you have a gas-powered water heater, a pilot light that frequently goes out and needs to be manually re-lit is one which is rapidly approaching the end of its life. Unless your light is defective and your water heater is only a few years old, a dying pilot light is usually a strong indication that your water heater itself is showing signs of age and about ready to be replaced. While manually re-lighting your pilot light can get you back to enjoying hot water for now, the problem will only become more frequent as time moves on, and you’ll struggle to keep hot water regularly flowing in your home.
Sign #4: Dying Heating Elements
What about if you have an electric water heater? A lack of hot water may be an indication that your heating elements are giving out, which usually is a sign that your tank is about to give out as well. A dying or defective heating element can usually be repaired, which can extend the life of your water heater itself. However, if your water heater is approaching the six to eight years of age range, then you may want to consider simply replacing the entire system outright—it may prove to be the more economically prudent choice.