Nobody wants to have their hot water heater give out in the middle of a cold winter. If you’re concerned about the reliability of your unit, there are some telltale signs to look out for.

Learn what are the main symptoms of a water heater that is about to fail. Find out if you have a problem before you hear someone in your house yell, “what’s wrong with the water heater?” or “there’s no hot water this morning.”

Warning Signs of Water Heater Failure


Unfortunately, household appliances are built to last forever. A decent quality water heater will usually last at least 10 years before needing to be replaced. Using a water softener and scheduling regular maintenance can help extend the life of your unit.

If you’re not sure how old the hot water heater is, check the serial number printed by the manufacturer. This label attached on the upper part of the heater will include the production date. The first two digits in the code are the last two numbers of the year, i.e. 04 is from 2004.


Every homeowner fears water damage, for good reason. Take a look at your water heater, behind, and around the unit. If you see water dripping from any pipes, leaking from the tank, or pooling around the unit, have a technician perform a checkup. The problem may be resolved by tightening up some of the connections, adjusting the pressure, or replacing a valve.

But it could also be a sign that a connection needs to be replaced or the temperature/pressure-relief (or TPR) valve is faulty. If the TPR valve is the cause of the leak, a tech will need to replace the valve ASAP to prevent overheating. Leaking might also signify that the tank has corroded or cracked. If the tank is damaged, it’s time to replace the water heater.

Delivering Rusty or Cloudy Water

Another warning sign is when the water coming out of the faucets is not clear. Rust deposits or a metallic odor coming out with hot water can signal either rusty pipes or rust inside the water heater. If corrosion is eating away the metal from the inside, leaks are inevitable.

Murky water from the tap can also be signs that the water heater will fail soon. The cloudy look of the water is caused by mineral deposits in the system. As they buildup, these deposits can clog the flow of water and damage the heater components.

Hot Water Shortage

If hot water is running out quickly or you struggle to get hot – rather than warm – water from the tap, this is another omen. When it takes the heater an excessively long time to warm up the water, there may be an electrical problem or sediment buildup around the burner or heating element. This is often an early warning sign that the heater is ready for replacement.

Homeowners can extend the life of the equipment by requesting an annual flush of the water tank. This is especially helpful in places, like Pennsylvania, where water is hard.

Varying Water Temperature

Few things are more irritating in the morning than having the shower temperature change suddenly or constantly. If you find yourself adjusting the dial a lot, your water heater may be sending you a message. Water that changes from hot to cold without reason is a good reason to start thinking about purchasing a new unit.

Making Strange Noises

If you hear popping or rumbling noises coming from the water heater, it may be telling you that it’s close to failure. These sounds become more noticeable as the unit gets older. They are a symptom of mineral formation and sediment buildup hardening inside the tank. As this layer forms and thickens, the water heater must consume more energy to do its job, making it less efficient. Plus, this process wears on the tank and components, making cracks and leaks more likely with time.

Using a water softener and flushing the tank regularly can help slow this process. But as the noises get louder, you should understand that the water heater’s days are numbered.

Requiring Expensive Repairs

A regular tune-up for your water heater shouldn’t be costly. As it gets older and parts begin to wear out, however, maintenance work will likely get more expensive. Smart homeowners know to compare the rising cost of fixing the unit with a replacement. When repairs become too expensive, replacing the water heater will be the clear solution.

The Importance of Water Heater Maintenance

Proper maintenance is key to getting the most out of your appliances. Have your water heater checked by a qualified plumber or service technician at least once every year. Regular servicing often includes flushing the unit to clear out sediment and mineral residue. The pressure relief valve should also be checked by a professional to prevent serious damage or complications.


Find out why Annual HVAC Maintenance is Important.

Get Ready for the Winter – Call AQM

Don’t wait for a problem to strike. You want to be prepared for the cold months ahead. Schedule a professional inspection with AQM. We install, service, and repair generators, HVAQ equipment, and water heaters in the Delaware Valley. Request a quote or call us at (610) 363-3940.

AQM, Inc.