Water Heater Problems


Water heaters are among the most reliable appliances in the home. They typically function well past their rated life expectancy. However, they invariably break down on a cold winter’s morning. Just kidding, but it does seem that way. Nobody likes cold showers or water heater problems.

Hot water heater problems fall into several broad categories:

  • Inadequate or no hot water.
  • Discolored or noxious water.
  • Unusual noises.

VERY IMPORTANT: Always close any water or gas lines and turn off the electrical power before servicing a water heater. You can then proceed in safety to identify and fix the problem.

Inadequate or No Hot Water:

For gas models, a faulty, clogged or damaged pilot light is usually the culprit for your hot water heater problems. Check and clean the flame sensor and the gas jet. Next, prime the gas line and attempt to light the pilot. If unsuccessful, the entire ignition system will probably have to be replaced.

For electric models, check that power is being delivered to the thermostat and then to both the upper and lower heating elements. This is a trial and error process. There is little in the way of repair on these items. If one is faulty, it needs to be replaced. We would recommend calling your local plumbing contractor to determine if repairable or just needs replacement.

Discolored or Smelly Water:

Discolored or dirty looking water in your water heater indicates the obvious; rust is polluting the contents of the tank. There is just no getting around the chemistry of the situation, water causes metals to oxidize, that is, to rust. Manufacturers of water heaters have understood this inextricable relationship for years. Their solution is to include a “sacrificial bar” inside the tank. This bar oxidizes more readily than the tank itself and thus saves the tank. Replace this bar. If the problem persists, the tank is too corrupted and must be replaced.

Smelly water in your water heater is a problem also related to the sacrificial bar. As the bar oxidizes, it releases hydrogen gas that feeds bacteria in the tank. These bacteria are the cause of the awful smell. Many people describe the water smelling like rotten eggs. The solution is quite simple. Drain the tank, refill, add two pints of three percent hydrogen peroxide and replace the sacrificial bar. The result is dead bacteria and pristine smelling water.

Unusual noises:

Noises are generally indicative of the unusual buildup of either sediment on the bottom of the tank or deposits on the heating elements. The solution to these hot water heater problems is the same, remove the sediment or scale and flush the tank.