Water Heater Failure | Cross Plains WI | Sauk Plains Plumbing
Traditional heaters come in a variety of tank sizes with an equal number of high-tech control and monitoring systems.

Hot water heaters are easily taken for granted and a hot water heater failure is a household disaster. Damage, cost and disruption can all be avoided by monitoring the performance of the unit in your Middleton and Cross Plains WI area home.

All water heaters provide symptoms letting you know when something is wrong. Basic, common tank-type heaters are simple products. Both electric- and gas-powered models have the latest technology controlling operations. Compared to most appliances, they are not complicated. Licensed plumbers report that most repair calls are the result of a hot water heater installed incorrectly. Designed to last for years, proper installation is key to getting every unit through its expected lifespan.

A unit’s lifespan depends upon its routine maintenance and the condition of the water in it.  Knowing how old the water heater is helps, but it isn’t a sure sign you’ll need a replacement soon.

Old Age Contributes To Water Heater Failure

If you didn’t install the water heater in your house, how do you know hold old it is? Do water heaters have an “expiration date?” Heater makers suggest the useful life of a high-quality water heater is between 8 and 10 years. That’s a “best guess” and actual replacement might be needed before or later than that.

There’s no “use by” sticker on your water heater. To figure its age refer to its serial number. You’ll find it on the manufacturer’s sticker, usually on the upper half of the tank. Once you find it, don’t expect a clear reference to a date. The number looks something like:  G061193740. It’s in code. The code translates like this:

  • The letter is for the month of the year – based on the number of the letter in the alphabet. G is the 7th letter, D the 4th and so on. So you’ll see a letter for each of the 12 months (A through L)
  • The first two numbers after the letter are the last two numbers in the year it was made – 06 means 2006, etc.

So, the example G061193740 was made in July of 2006.

Signs Of Potential Water Heater Problems

Water Heater Failure | Cross Plains WI | Sauk Plains Plumbing
Representing the latest technology, tankless hot water heaters are efficient but more costly than traditional units and not appropriate for every need. (Click to enlarge)

Routine inspections of your water heater and timely observations by your and family members help to head off major repairs. Look for the following:

  • Discolored water – if your water looks brown, there’s probably rust in it. The rust can come from corrosion within the heater tank or from an outside source. If rust-colored water comes from the hot tap, it is a sign the heater has a problem.
  • Hot water has an odor – if hot water has a bad smell is can be bacteria in the tank. Homes with well water are especially plagued by this problem. Flushing the tanks regularly is a temporary fix. Raising the thermostat’s temperature setting helps, too. The final solution is a repair to replace the anode rod inside the tank.
  • Rumbling sounds – when your water heater rumbles and gurgles as it heats there’s sediment inside. It needs to be flushed thoroughly and often. Well or city water is not distilled water so when heated particles separate. This sediment falls to the bottom of the tank where it can harden. When it builds to a serious level over the heating elements it moves around as the water heats, causing a rumbling sound. When residue gets too thick the heating element won’t heat the water.
  • Puddles at the base – if you note a puddle at the base of your heater tank you have a serious problem. It could be a leak in the tank. Or it could be from a weak, broken or over-stress pressure relief valve. If you see a puddle, have a professional check it out immediately.

Many Factors At Work

There are many working for and against your hot water heater’s efficient operation. Additional signs of potential failures or repairs include water-related issues like:

  • Luke-warm water – if you just cannot get water hot enough for your needs, the heater needs inspection. It may be a faulty thermostat connection or something more critical.
  • Water is too hot – water temperature issues are usually related to the thermostat. A temperature setting that’s too high for some is just right for others. If simple adjustments don’t lower the temperature to a range you’re comfortable with, call in a pro to check wiring, connections and modern computer-controlled systems.
  • Not enough hot water – environmental conditions impact the delivery of hot water. In a very cold winter pipes get cold faster and cool off water quicker so it takes longer for water at the tap to warm. Running out of hot water is most likely a sign your tank it too small for your demand, not a heater problem.

Gas-fired Water Heater Failure

In addition to these concerns, there are three problem areas specific to gas-powered hot water heaters. Each is serious on its own. If you’re noting any of the above concerns with your gas-powered heated, check these:

  1. Pilot won’t stay lit – if the pilot light goes out it is more than annoying. Having to relight it over and over is a nuisance and can be dangerous. In most cases a bad thermocouple must be replaced. Dirty or clogged air vents lead to downdrafts that blow out the flame. Check the venting system immediately. A bad gas valve might also be the cause. Any of the require professional attention.
  2. Pilot flame won’t light – if the hot water heater’s pilot light has gone out, before you relight it refer to your owner’s manual to be sure you’re doing it right. If you cannot get it to light it could be because the opening in the gas delivery tube is clogged or damaged. Or the thermocouple is loose or damaged. Finally, there could be air in the gas line or the valve needs to be replaced.
  3. Burner won’t stay lit – the heating element and burner sometimes produce uneven flames and whistling sounds. They eventually go out. A dirty burner with clogged openings is likely to blame. A bad pilot light or thermocouple are additional possibilities.

Don’t Take Chances With Water Heater Problems

Hot water heaters, especially popular gas-fired models, pose serious threats to you wellbeing when something goes wrong. People die every year from mistakes made when installing or handling these units. If you have concerns about the heater you have, are looking for a replacement or want to upgrade, the experienced, licensed plumbers at Sauk Plains Plumbing are ready to assist. Call 608-798-2121 and we’ll inspect your system and suggest the best options for you. Team with us to head off water heater failure in your Cross Plains WI, Verona, Waunakee or Middleton WI home.

Sauk Plains Water Heater Services

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