How to Troubleshoot a Broken Water Heater | Smile HVAC

Water Heaters

How to Troubleshoot a Broken Water Heater

For those who enjoy hot showers or labor-saving devices like dishwashers and laundry machines, a water heater is an indispensable part of any home. It is the unsung hero of appliances, dutifully pumping out the hot water needed to clean everything from clothes to dinner plates, to human beings. But even though it is such a crucial element in the running of a functioning household, a water heater can be an easy thing to overlook or take for granted, until it stops working correctly.

For the uninitiated, the basic idea behind a water heating unit is this: potable water travels through pipes into a dwelling where it is then heated by electricity, natural gas, or propane—usually in a large, cylindrical tank—and then dispensed to faucets and taps throughout the household. Water heaters are quite durable, and have a lifespan of between eight to twelve years. However, just like any other appliance, they can break down and need repairing. But how can someone tell?

Some Signs a Water Heater is Malfunctioning and What Can Be Done About It

If a homeowner is largely unfamiliar with a water heater’s make-up and inner workings, how can a faulty one be detected? Some symptoms are obvious and some are more subtle, but most can be detected by observing the water’s condition as it runs out of the tap. Here are some signs a water heater might be malfunctioning, along with a description of the likely problems, and a summary of what can be done about it. Please also, note that the water heater’s initial installation plays a huge role in how it will work in the future. If it was installed improperly, most likely you will have a lot of problems later. Some of these measures can be taken by homeowners themselves and some will require the assistance of HVAC repair services.

There is No Hot Water

Is there anything more jarring and unpleasant than jumping into a shower only to find that there is no hot water? Fortunately, in a situation like this, the culprit is usually a tripped circuit breaker, and the problem is easily fixed with a quick trip to the breaker box. However, it is also possible that the thermostat connected to the water heater is broken and giving off faulty readings, effectively telling the water heater that the temperature of the water is hot when it is actually cold.

In this instance, a potential solution is to reset the thermostat. If that doesn’t work, the thermostat will need to be replaced. There is also a possibility that the heating elements in the water heater have failed, in which case a professional ought to be consulted.

The Water is Too Hot

On the opposite end of things, another sign of a malfunctioning water heater is water coming out of the tap at too high a temperature. Once again, the thermostat connected to the water heater might be to blame. It could be defective and transmit bad information, but oftentimes in this scenario, the thermostat is just set too high. Should that be the case, simply adjust the water temperature to a more appropriate level.

The factory setting for a water heater thermostat is generally around sixty degrees celsius, but many environmental groups recommend dialing it back to fifty degrees to reduce power consumption. Another potential reason for water coming out of the tap too hot could be damaged wiring surrounding the water heater. If this is the problem, it will require the attention of a licensed HVAC service professional.

The Water Pressure is Too Low

Poor water flow happens for any number of reasons, most of which have nothing to do with a water heater. For example, if pipes are clogged or corroded, water pressure can suffer. Depending on when the dwelling was built, infrastructural problems could also be at play, as many older homes were constructed using narrow piping. The nature of the problem can be partially determined by running the taps one at a time. If both the hot and cold water run at low pressure, a broken water heater can be eliminated from consideration.

If, on the other hand, only the hot water pressure is low, a build-up of sediment, rust, or calcium deposits in the water heater tank could be to blame. This issue can be solved by disconnecting the heater’s power source, draining the tank, and clearing out the blockage. Should the problem persist, though, it would be wise to consult a professional.

The Water is Dirty, Discoloured, or Smells Bad

Dirty, orange-tinted, or foul-smelling water can be a sign of contaminants in the water supply, typically rust or bacteria. The source of this can be a malfunctioning water heater, but it can also be the household’s water source, such as a lake or a well. To test which is the problem, it is once again a matter of running the hot and cold faucets separately. If both the hot and cold water is discolored or giving off an offensive odor, it’s likely that the water source is the issue. If only the hot water seems affected, it’s logical to look to the water heater.

Every water heater comes equipped with something called an anode rod—sometimes referred to as a ‘sacrificial’ anode—which is an object designed to attract harmful substances and, in so doing, act as a bacteria filter while simultaneously staving off rust erosion in the unit’s interior. But once an anode rod is worn down enough, it stops being effective, and rust and bacteria will start seeping into the hot water. The solution is to replace it. Although some homeowners may feel comfortable trying their hand at this, it is a fairly tricky procedure, and retaining a professional to perform it would be advisable.

The Water Heater is Making Strange Sounds

If a water heater is rumbling, banging, popping, or making any kind of abnormal noise, it can be indicative of a very serious problem. Usually, it means that a significant amount of mineral sediment has collected in the water heater tank, or that the heating elements have succumbed to considerable scale build-up.

In dealing with these problems, a homeowner’s best resort is to disconnect the gas or electricity, drain the water from the tank, clear out the sediment, and then clean the heating elements with vinegar. Once the elements have spent about six hours sitting in vinegar, the tank should be re-filled and the water left to run through the unit for a while to flush out the vinegar.

It is worth noting that a neglected water heater can occasionally be dangerous. If enough sediment has accrued, the internal pressure of a water heating unit can reach a critical point. Alternately, if a water heater’s anode rod has worn down, minerals from incoming water can erode its structure from the inside. Too much pressure or a crack in the device’s interior can result in a water heater bursting open or even exploding.

Such instances are rare, but they do serve to underscore the importance of water heater maintenance. For safety’s sake, it pays to inspect a water heater on a regular basis, drain it about once a year, and replace it every eight to twelve years. And if ever in doubt about the severity of a problem, it pays to call on a trained HVAC professional.

Call Professionals to Repair your Water Heater

Some issues with the water heater are just too hard to repair by yourself. Additionally, there’s also a risk that you may not identify the problem correctly unless you are a professional and fully authorized HVAC technician. Smile HVAC provides water heater repair services in Toronto and all over GTA.

Our support team members will clarify the issue and give you the estimates as well as the time we can come to your place. The technician will come and repair the issue in a professional manner and make sure that you won’t have any issues with your water heater for a long time. Call us at (+1) 437-777-4555 or book your appointment online.