Your water heater is acting strangely… does this mean it’s time for replacement? Well, it could, but this time, we only want to talk about problems that aren’t nearly as drastic as they seem. So relax! That doesn’t mean these problems are completely harmless, of course, but we won’t leave you in the dark on how to proceed. Here are some minor plumbing problems that you should be on the lookout for.
Sediments in the Bottom of the Tank
Have you done an inspection of your water heater, only to find what appears to be dirt or rust at the bottom of the tank? Sounds disgusting. But fear not, this isn’t a sign of metal flaking from the tank or some kind of harmful substance. This is merely sediment buildup.
All water—so long as it hasn’t been treated with a reverse osmosis filter—carries some amount of minerals with it. When the water goes through the water heater, it tends to separate, finally meeting its resting place at the bottom of your water heater. On its own, these minerals are harmless and don’t signify anything wrong with your water heater or your drinking water.
However, that’s no reason to let it sit there. Mineral buildup can make your heater less effective. In large enough quantities, it can create hot spots that might burn hot enough to put a leak in your tank. To avoid that, the minerals simply need to be flushed from the tank a few times a year.
It Appears the Tank is Leaking
Is there water around the base of your water heater? If it is truly leaking, that’s a problem. You’ll need to get a whole new tank. But don’t panic—there are some other explanations for why water would form around the heater.
The cold and hot water inlet and outlet connectors might be leaking if they’re loose. These pipes have nothing to do with the heater itself, so they possibly just need retightening or replacement.
It’s also possible the temperature and pressure relief valve is discharging water. This valve is here to release some water if the tank has gotten too hot or is building up with too much pressure (thus avoiding a burst heater!). If this valve is leaking, it’s a good thing, because it means the valve is doing its job. At the same time, don’t ignore the fact that your water heater seems to be overheating!
If the bottom of the tank itself is leaking, that’s when you should be concerned. This will most likely be due to several years of sediment buildup. As mentioned above, it can possibly create superheated spots that can corrode the tank.
If your heater seems to be having a problem not mentioned here, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Don’t hesitate to call a professional plumber in Santa Barbara, CA if you notice something unusual. At the least, you can receive some professional advice or an appointment for an inspection.