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Avoid Hot Water Heater Issues This Winter


Don’t let your water heater leave you out in the cold this winter. Water heaters are hot commodities in the winter months; both electric and gas water heaters alike. So hot, they can even break, leaving you without a properly functioning hot water tank and without any warm water for a shower.

Here are a few common hot water heater issues and remedies.

Not Enough Hot Water

It’s time to tell your hot water heater, “It’s not you. It’s me.” We’re quick to blame a faulty hot water heater when we run out of hot water instead of blaming our behavior. It’s more common to run out of hot water in the winter because people typically take longer, hotter showers than they do in the summer.

Want a quick way to fix your hot water blues? Show your water heater some love by wrapping it in a special blanket, even an electric water heater. This blanket will help insulate the tank, which will keep the water 10 degrees warmer than the thermostat is set. Water also tends to cool down when moving from Point A to Point B, especially if it travels far. Prevent heat loss by wrapping the pipes in foam insulation.

Scalding Water

We’ve all been there. The warm water begins to taper off, and our instinct is to crank the shower dial-up. Then instead of being showered with ice cubes, streams of lava pour out of your showerheads.

If the water temperature in your shower tends to switch from scalding to frigid at the tip of a hat, this is no matter to take lightly, especially if you have children who are just learning how to operate the shower. It can take five seconds or less for scalding hot water to cause burns. The first measure you should take is to lower your hot water heater’s temperature to 120 degrees Fahrenheit.

Most heaters come with a factory setting of 140 degrees, which is a fairly high-temperature limit. This is often used at home shows to show how hot the water can get in a short time. While this might impress consumers, you’ll save your skin and energy by lowering the temperature. You can also install an anti-scald valve that maintains safe water temperatures, even when the water pressure changes. (I.e. Someone showering will not experience a burst of cold, followed by extremely hot water when someone else flushes a toilet). Also, ensure you don’t have a faulty thermostat.

Water Takes Too Long To Heat

Feeling like you’re showering in lukewarm water? It could be due to one or more problems with your water heater’s performance. This includes having a low thermostat temperature setting on the unit itself, or a dirty burner orifice that needs cleaning so it can do its job better.

Ensure all vents leading out into airways are clear by noting if there’s increased noise coming from them while operating at high heat settings (a sign something may have gotten clogged).

With an electric water heater, it could just be a heating element that needs to be replaced. Make sure to check the heating elements of your water heater tank periodically, as they can have sediment build-up.

Water Leaking From Top of the Unit (Electric Water Heater and Gas Water Heaters)

If you think your water heater may be leaking near the top, it might not actually be a leak. Several different things could cause this, and they’re all easy to fix.

If there are hot or cold pipes coming out of an outlet on one side (or both), make sure those connections aren’t loose by tightening them. Use plumber’s tape if necessary and check for any cracks in the joints before continuing further down into more serious repairs like replacing valves.

With your gas water heater, same as with an electric water heater, you should first check the cold water inlet valve and outlet pipes to make sure they are not loose. A faulty or lost temperature control valve may be at fault for leaks. There can also be leaks from the pressure relief valve, which ensures the tank doesn’t contain too much water pressure.

Water Leaking From the Bottom of the Unit

A gas or electric water tank can develop a leak at any point in its system. The most common cause of this is condensation, which forms when moisture gets trapped inside the tank due to hot air being blown over it by fans or open vents on cooler mornings and nights.

However, there are other reasons too. For example, a faulty heating element may need replacing because they don’t last long before it wears out completely. If you notice leaking, something else might be wrong, like low hot water pressure.

Gas water heater troubleshooting should consist of checking out the tank itself for corrosion at the bottom of the water tank. If it seems the leak is due to corrosion of the water tank, it will need to be replaced.

Rusty Colored or Stinky Water

Tank corrosion is the most common cause of a leaking water heater. A failing anode rod can result from old age or poor quality plumbing, but they are also easy to spot because you will see blackened areas on them before any other sign that corrosion has occurred. Brownish discoloration around your home’s pipes possibly indicates this problem already exists and needs attention immediately. So if your water has recently turned brown in color or smells like rotten eggs when it comes out of the hot water faucet, it could be due to corrosion.

The trouble with a corroding anode rod? You might not know about it until something breaks, which happens more often than you may think. Repairing these issues isn’t complicated when compared to replacing the entire unit, as many people do without realizing what caused the leak in the first place.

High Energy Bills

Did you know that your hot water heater has to work much harder to adequately heat water when your home is cold? The first and easiest way to save money on hot water is to implement water-saving measures such as limiting shower times or setting your washing machine to use cold water, so you don’t overwork the heating elements.

Are you saving water but still not saving money? Replacing your water heater is an investment, so before you revamp your entire system, check to see if your high energy bills are linked to a drafty home. Many homes are drafty due to insufficient insulation or air leaks in doors and windows.

If you fixed these problems and are still experiencing sky-high bills, your old hot water heater may be the culprit, and replacing it may be the only solution. We recommend replacing it with a more energy-efficient model. Most electric water heaters on the market today are designed to save energy. It may be beneficial to consider tankless heaters, which can save space in your home by eliminating the need for a storage tank.

Mass Save Program

No matter your financial situation, making energy-efficient upgrades to your home is always a possibility. Mass Save is a government program that offers interest-free loans to homeowners who want to make upgrades like replacing their hot water heater. With this program, you might even be able to get your next water heater for free! Learn more about how Mass Save’s rebates can help you lower your energy bills.

When you take these tips into consideration, you can rid your home of these water heater problems and save hundreds on your energy bill. Do you think you’re paying too much to heat your home’s water? Call Energy Monster today to schedule a free energy assessment and find out where your hard-earned dollars are disappearing to.

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