There’s no doubt about it; hot water on demand is essential in modern homes. If you’ve ever jumped into the shower to find that a family member already used up all the hot water, you know how frustrating it is to be left without warmth. When an issue comes up, it’s usually something you want to fix fast, so here are a few troubleshooting tips you can use at home.
Why Hot Water Heaters are a Hot Issue in Home Inspections
Hot water heaters can run into any number of issues, from sediment build-up to broken parts or faulty electrical wiring. Sometimes it’s hard to know what’s happening and whether it’s an easy fix or a full-blown replacement.
In many cases, the issue isn’t with the unit itself, but a single component. Here are a few warning signs that signal a problem:
– No hot water (or not enough)
– Noise from the tank
– Leaks around the tank
– Smelly or cloudy water
– Cooler water than usual
Checking the Electrical System
One of the most common reasons you don’t have any hot water in your home is not because the heater has failed, but because the circuit breaker tripped. The first step is to check your breaker box. If that doesn’t seem to be the issue, it could be a problem with your heating elements or limit switch.
Checking & Adjusting the Thermostat
One easy fix for water that’s not hot enough (or too hot) is a simple thermostat check. The thermostat on your gas-powered hot water heater can be easily adjusted. In severe cases where you can’t adjust the temperature enough, you might need to replace the thermostat.
As mentioned above, you may need to replace certain parts of your hot water heater when you notice problems. A few common replacements include:
– Anode rod (which protects your tank from corrosion)
– Heating elements
– Pressure relief valves
Upgrading Your System
If you have hot water but you’re constantly running out of it, there’s a chance your hot water tank is simply too small for your household. You could want to upgrade to a larger tank, or to a tankless hot water heater, which I’m beginning to see in more and more home inspections. Or, you might need to switch to a more efficient tank version, which will lower the amount of time needed to reheat water after usage. Keep in mind that gas hot water heaters are typically about two times as efficient as electric ones.
One of the main issues with hot water heaters is the lifespan of the unit as a whole. Gas-powered hot water heaters only have a lifespan of about 8-12 years, according to manufacturer standards. I’ve seen many homeowners get far more life out of their hot water heaters, but that typically takes routine maintenance and care.
Even at 15 or more years, it’s still a fairly regular replacement to make. And, at an average cost of about $1500 for a replacement, it’s important for new homebuyers to know how much life is left in a heater so they can budget for a replacement.
Should I Invest in a Tankless Hot Water Heater?
Like any big home investment, tankless heaters (also known as “on-demand” heaters) have their pros and cons. Going tankless will cost you around three times as much as a storage-based water heater in upfront fees. Those costs might be offset by savings on your energy bill since you won’t constantly be warming an entire tank of water that you might only use a few times a day. They tend to have longer lifespans, but they also aren’t as great for simultaneous use (if you were to shower and wash clothes at the same time, for example).
How to Diagnose Issues
As a certified home inspector, I’m often able to help homeowners diagnose issues with their hot water heaters before the problem requires replacement. To book a full home inspection that covers your heater, as well as all the other important components of your home’s mechanical, plumbing, and electrical systems, call Fortified Home Inspections in Edmonton today!