Water Heaters | 6 min.

How to handle a broken Water Heater

Written by Chris

Imagine planning a nice warm bath after a cold day only to find it broken when you get home. Water heaters are a home staple, especially during the freezing winter days. So, what happens when the water heater breaks? You have to deal with ice-cold water for bathing and dishwashing the whole time. Read on so you’ll know what to do when it happens.

How Does a Water Heater Work?

There are two kinds of water heaters – tank-type and tankless water heaters. Both types convert energy to heat the water and distribute it around your household. Their difference lies in the process, volume, and water storage. It’s up to your lifestyle, which one will be best for your home.

Tank-type Hot Water Heater

As its name says, tank-type water heaters have tanks when you install them. They are perfect for large families since they can store and distribute a lot of heated water. It usually uses fuel or electricity to start heating the water. Tank-type heaters use three pipes to transfer the water. The cold water pipe transports moisture to the bottom of the tank to be heated. As it warms up, it is distributed by the hot water pipe on demand. The safety valve pipe keeps the water heater safe if the temperature and pressure go too high. The heated water is stored in the tank and is continuously heated even when not in use.

Tankless Hot Water Heater

Tankless water heaters, on the other hand, are compact and energy-efficient. It heats water on demand rather than storing and continuing to heat it. Tankless heaters either use heat exchanger coils or gas to heat cold water.

How To Know When a Water Heater Breaks?

Depending on the cause of the breakage, your water heater may show these indicators that it is broken.

Common Reason Why Water Heater Dies or Break.

There are several reasons why a water heater breaks, and it is best to check for these factors to avoid the hassle of emergency repairs. Also, check the signs that your water heater is dying

1. Water Heater Age

Standard heaters last for only about eight to twelve years. The wear and tear will eventually slow down the healing process and will cause higher electricity and fuel consumption. Check the serial number to see your heater’s manufacturing date.

2. Sediment Build-Up

The commercial hard water contains minerals that get deposited at the bottom of the tank. The minerals create a layer at the burner which insulates the water being heated. This causes the burner to overheat and weaken the tank.

3. Internal Pressure

The safety valves manage the pressure inside the tank. However, prolonged use can wear it down over the years. If too much pressure is unreleased, it will leak and burst water in the room.

What Should You Do When Your Water Heater Breaks?

These are the initial steps, so you know what happens when the water heater breaks in your home.

Step 1 –  Turn Off the Water Heater

Switch to turn off the water heater when it breaks

Prevent the machine from always running especially when there’s a burst already in the heater. This can minimize more damage to the heater and lessen the danger of electrocution.

Step 2 – Turn Off the Water Source

Valve to turn of water source to water heater


Stop more water from coming into the tank if it’s broken already. Dial the valve on your heater clockwise until it stops. If that doesn’t work, turning off the entire home’s water supply can be an option.

Step 3 -Drain the Water Heater

Drain the water heater

This is a crucial step to starting the repair. You will need a hose that fits the drain valve to pump out the water. The drain valve is usually just below the water heater. You can follow the instructions shown on how to drain water.

Step 4 -Release the Pressure

Pressure cap of water heater

Open the heater’s pressure relief valve, usually found at the side of the heater or the top. When releasing, lift the valve gently and prepare a bucket to catch the water that will spill out. Be careful since the water will be boiling.

Step 5 -Rinse with Cold Water

Rinsing the water heater with cold water

Turn on the water to flush out the sediments built up inside the tank. Please make sure the water flow gets around the bottom of the tank to clean it out.


Having water heaters provide comfort in your home on colder days. It is best to check it regularly for maintenance to avoid a major breakdown. If ever you are faced with a situation like that, there are simple steps you can initially do to fix it. However, if the initial five steps didn’t work, it’s time to call the professionals and have it checked for you. This is better than trying to fix it and possibly doing irreparable damage.

Smile HVAC will not only assist you in repairing broken water heaters, but we can also install and provide repair and maintenance services for you. You can contact us at 437-777-4555.