Is my hot water heater broken?

hot water heater brokenStrange noises coming from the garage? Constantly taking cold showers? We often expect hot water to be readily available when we turn on the faucet or start the washing machine, but when something goes wrong, this luxury we take for granted is suddenly a big problem.

If your unit is approaching the end of its 8-12 year lifespan, it’s best to keep an eye out for these warning signs that your hot water heater is broken.

Rusty water

Steel water heaters are susceptible to rust as they age. If you see rusty water when you turn on the faucet, that’s a sign of an impending water heater leak. Keep in mind that rust can also signal corrosion in your pipes, so be sure to check them as well.

Cold showers

If you’ve mastered washing in 60 seconds to avoid a cold shower, you should check your hot water heater. The unit may not necessarily be bad, it could be that the circuit breaker tripped or the pilot light went out. If both of those elements are fine, the hot water heater could be the direct cause.

Lukewarm water

While warm water is better than a cold shower, it could still signal a problem. If you can’t increase the temperature of your water, the heating element could be going out. Check to see if your thermostat is set between 120 and 140 degrees.


Any loud noise from your hot water heater is a bad sign. Banging or thumping may develop as the unit ages and attempts to heat up your water. Slight noises are nothing to fear, but unexpected clanging could indicate a sediment build-up at the bottom of the tank. If left untreated, this build-up will rapidly age the unit, as it must heat up the sediment first before producing hot water.


Your hot water heater will eventually reach the end of the line after years of hot showers and loads of laundry, and one sure sign of expiration is a leak. The inner lining of the tank will begin to expand, causing small, unnoticeable cracks that will eventually grow and create costly leaks.

If you start noticing any of these warning signs, it’s good to consider replacement options. A tankless hot water heater may be a good choice, as they are designed to last nearly twice as long as traditional water heaters.

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