Can a Water Heater Be Repaired – Or Is Replacement a Better Option?
Did you know that plumbers often help their customers determine whether their water heater can be repaired? A common misconception is that all water heater problems are unfixable. That’s not always the case. Sure, you may need to replace your unit eventually, but you can quickly remedy some issues with a few new parts and a little elbow grease.
However, before you dive in and try to fix your water heater, you need to understand how complicated this appliance really is. There are many components inside the unit, and it’s tricky to figure out the root of the problem without proper training. That’s why you should always avoid DIY and call a professional plumber instead. Here are the most common repairs:
Cleaning Out and Flushing the Tank
If you own a traditional water heater, you know it stores and heats tap water inside a large tank. What you may not realize is that sediment may collect at the base of the reservoir. That’s why you should drain the tank once or twice a year. If you don’t, you may end up with a dirty, clogged water heater that becomes inefficient or stops working altogether.
What causes this sediment to form? Tap water comes from a treatment facility, where high-tech machines filter and clean the water before it reaches your house. However, even under ideal circumstances, there is still some debris left behind. Households with hard water have more minerals and heavy metals in the pipes. While this isn’t harmful to your health, it may lead to build-up inside your faucets, washing machine, dishwasher, and even your water heater.
When too much sediment collects at the bottom, your water heater may become clogged. You may hear banging sounds as the minerals begin to break apart, or your hot water may look rusty. If you don’t call a plumber to clean out the tank, it’s only a matter of time before a leak forms. Leaking water heaters are a leading cause of home floods—luckily, these leaks are also preventable with regular maintenance.
Installing a New Thermostat
Water heaters rely on a thermostat to regulate the temperature of the water inside the tank. The thermostat triggers the heating element if the water drops below a certain temperature. If you notice your water is lukewarm—even if you open the hot water faucet all the way—you may have a malfunctioning thermostat. No, you don’t need to run out and purchase another water heater when this happens. As long as your system is relatively young, you can install a new thermostat.
Some water heaters only have one thermostat, while others have two. It depends on if you have a single or a dual element. If you have a modern system, you more than likely have a dual element. Don’t worry if you don’t know what type you own—a plumber can easily identify it. In the dual system, you’ll find both an upper and a lower thermostat. Plumbers usually recommend replacing both thermostats if one goes out.
Replacing a Corroded Anode Rod
Do you know the importance of an anode rod? Unless you’re a plumber, you may not even know what this little device is. The anode rod plays a critical role in the daily operation of your water heater. In fact, without it, your water heater would start to leak or completely wear out in only a few years.
So, what does the anode rod do? It serves a critical role—the rod prevents rust and corrosion inside your water heater. Rust develops whenever iron, oxygen, water mix—and all of these materials are present inside the tank of your water heater! When oxidation occurs, iron loses two of its electrons and rust forms.
When you install an aluminum or magnesium anode rod, it creates a more powerful chemical reaction inside the tank. Essentially, the anode rod loses electrons at a faster rate, and the rod begins to rust and corrode first. This reaction slows the rate at which the tank rusts. Science is pretty cool, huh?
Unfortunately, the anode rod will corrode long before your water heater reaches the end of its lifespan. On average, you should expect to get about 3-6 years from this device before you should replace it. It’s important to install a new anode rod according to the manufacturer’s recommendations—if you don’t, you may void your warranty!
Fixing the Heating Element
Waking up to a cold shower is never an enjoyable way to start the day. When this happens, you should first check to make sure you don’t have a tripped circuit breaker. If everything in the beaker box looks good, the heating element is the likely culprit.
If the heating element of your water heater goes out, you may find yourself without any hot water. You may also notice that water takes longer than usual to warm up, or you may run out of hot water prematurely. While your unit may be on its last leg, there is still the chance that you can fix it. Plumbers replace heating elements all the time.
Situations that Warrant a Total Replacement
When something goes wrong with your water heater, you should also prepare yourself for the possibility that you need to buy a new one. Nothing lasts forever, and water heaters are no exception. Most water heaters have a limited lifespan of about 10-15 years.
No matter how simple the problem may seem, most plumbers will recommend replacing the unit if it’s old. Spending money to fix a geriatric water heater is like flushing money down the toilet—and no reputable plumber would ever allow you to do that!
Leaks are another reason to install a new water heater. While plumbers can sometimes replace a valve or tighten a connection to fix a leak, it’s only a matter of time before it comes back. And ignoring a leak can become a costly mistake. Do you really want to know what will happen after a 50-gallon tank floods your home?
Get Help from the Water Heater Professionals
If you suspect something is wrong with your water heater, don’t put off seeking help. The sooner you call a trusted local plumber, the sooner you can enjoy warm showers again. Besides, they may be able to solve your situation with a simple repair and save you money.
Morningside Plumbing is passionate about water heaters. Our licensed and insured plumbers know how to diagnose and fix problems before they get out of hand. Big or small, there’s no plumbing crisis we can’t solve! From preventative maintenance to emergency repairs, we do it all. If you’re out of hot water, connect with us online now to schedule fast and affordable water heater repairs.