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We never seem to appreciate hot water until we run out of it. When your water heater fails, it can be a major inconvenience for days to weeks – and with winter approaching, you don’t want to be left out in the cold. Knowing how to recognize the early warning signs of water heater failure is the key to preventing costly repairs and replacements. 

Signs You Need a Replacement

Here are three signs that you might need a water heater replacement, along with a few basic and essential maintenance tips to prevent problems in the first place.

  1. Heater is Over a Decade Old

Unlike a fine wine, water heaters do not improve with age. Like all mechanical appliances, they have a lifespan. If you’ve been noticing worsening problems that get more expensive to fix each time, perhaps it’s time to thank the water heater for its service and invest in a new model.

      2. Rusty-colored Water

First, make sure the cause of rusty, brown water in your heater isn’t due to: 

  • Copper or plastic water supply lines
  • Temporary disturbances in the public water supply
  • A nearby break in a city-operated water main or fire hydrant
  • Built-up sediment in your water heater 
  • A deteriorated anode rod

Unfortunately, all other signs point to corrosion inside the water heater. The vast majority of the time, the only remedy for this particular issue is replacement. 

      3. Limited Hot Water (Or None At All) 

If limited hot water is a chronic problem in your household and not a sudden occurrence, your current heater may simply be too small for your usage needs. Purchasing a new unit with a larger tank or investing in a tankless, on-demand model can remedy this issue immediately. Check that the lack of hot water isn’t due to these other fixable problems:

  • Thermostat issues (try resetting the thermostat)
  • Broken dip tube 
  • Built-up sediment (drain your water heater and flush the sediment out) 

If none of these seem to be the case, it may be time to replace your water heater. An old or poorly maintained water heater develops a faulty heating system over time, and its performance will only deteriorate as time goes on. 

Maintenance is Key to Avoid Expensive Repairs 

In addition to booking annual plumbing services, there are a few basic, essential maintenance tasks and efficiency rules you can undertake to extend the life of your water heater. 

  1. Adjust the water heater’s thermostat to no more than 120 degrees
  2. Drain a quarter of the tank a few times a year to flush out debris and sediment. Rinse until the water runs clear. 
  3. Inspect the anode rod annually (or have a plumber check it during your annual service). 
  4. When leaving town, adjust the thermostat on gas heaters to “vacation” setting, which maintains the pilot light without heating the water. 
  5. Insulate your hot and cold water pipes. Older water heater models may also benefit from insulation. 

Schedule Water Heater Repair

Here at Shepherd’s Plumbing, Heating, and Air Conditioning, we are committed to providing you with plumbing services that last. Give us a call today at 650-459-4557 for any questions about our reputable plumbing services.

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