Water heaters are crucial home appliances that usually get overlooked until a problem pops up. However, taking a moment to head to the attic or basement to check up on your hot water heater at least once a month can pay off by helping you catch a problem before it leaves you taking cold showers. Watch for these four common symptoms that your tank is full of sediment, then take one of three actions to remedy the issue.
Your ears can reveal a lot about what's going on inside that sealed hot water tank. Spend a few minutes sitting by the heater and listening for
- Popping like microwave popcorn
- Loud banging and other explosive sounds
- Creaking that comes and goes
- Crackling and sizzling noises.
All of these sounds come from the sediment layer. Popping and sizzling is usually due to the water trapped under the sediment boiling quickly and creating a disturbance, while other sounds come from the sediment burning up as it contacts the heating element. Few other hot water heater problems result in these noises coming from inside the tank.
Reduced Reheating Speeds
How long does it take your tank to start putting hot water out again after you drain it with a long shower or bath? If you notice that it used to take 10 minutes and now takes over an hour, your tank is likely full of calcium and magnesium. This sand-like material gathers around the heating element and insulates it, slowing down the heat transfer between the element and the water. Many people find out that their water heaters are still worth keeping after getting a thorough flush to clean out the sediment and reveal the heating element again.
Every modern water heater includes a built-in safety valve that allows you to drain out the water for repairs. Opening the valve briefly only takes a few minutes, but it can reveal whether sediment is stacking up in the bottom of the tank. A valve that only barely drips or doesn't let any water out at all is likely clogged with this sediment and in need of immediate cleaning.
Connect the valve to a hose and run the hose outside before trying to open it. The pressure in the tank causes the hot water to shoot out quickly and splash around, so using a bucket instead of a hose could leave you burned.
Finally, keep an eye on the color of the hot water pouring out of the tap when you're running a bath or washing dishes. Since the sediment building up in the tank accelerates the corrosion and rusting that eventually kills any heater, you'll notice a rusty red color that slowly gets darker and more noticeable as the damage continues. Use a white paper cup or coffee mug to take weekly samples of your water so that faintest traces of color show up clearly against the plain background.
Once you're convinced that sediment is your problem, there are three ways to fix the issue. First, you can buy some basic equipment and try to handle the flushing process yourself. You'll likely get a lot of sediment out, but it's almost impossible for a homeowner to completely clean out the tank, and you likely need a new sacrificial anode at the same time. These anodes are too complicated for most homeowners to replace on their own.
Your other two options rely on an experienced water heater technician. The specialist can investigate the sediment and corrosion to determine if a flush will help. In severe cases, only replacement with a brand new heater can solve the problems caused by sediment build up.
For more information, contact a local water heater repair company like C B Lucas Heating & Air Conditioning.