Water heaters are familiar fixtures in many homes. They are big metal cylinders usually kept in the basement or utility room. If you have no hot water, check the circuit breaker or fuse in your home that serves your water heater. It may have tripped and needs to be reset.
Tank-Style Water Heaters
A traditional tank-style water heater has a gas or electric heating element. Hot water rises from the bottom of the tank, passes through a dip tube, and back to the top. From there, it goes through your home’s pipes and into your faucets. The tank also contains a temperature pressure relief valve that keeps pressure from building in the unit. Depending on the age of your water heater, it can start to experience issues. This may be due to wear and tear, corrosion, or a leak. If you notice an increase in your utility bills, a change in water temperature or unusual sounds coming from the water heater, it could be time to call in Plumbing Company Shreveport.
The first thing you should do is test the elements. There are two on most units, and they run an electrical current through them to heat the water. If these aren’t working, it may be because they are causing your circuit breaker to trip. Another possibility is that they have burned out or become shorted. Element replacement costs about $20 each. If this doesn’t solve the problem, it is possible that there is a thermostat or high-temperature cutoff switch issue. These can be difficult to diagnose and repair, and are best left to an experienced plumber.
Another common issue is a faulty dip tube. This tube transfers cool water to the bottom of the tank so it can be reheated by the lower element. If this tube is cracked or broken, it can cause cool water to mix with the hot water and reduce its overall temperature. A plumber can replace this tube, which shouldn’t be too expensive.
If you’re dealing with smells or discoloration in your water, it may be a sign that the anode rod is corroding and releasing sulfur into the water. You can try turning off the water for a few minutes and then re-turning it on. This should help get rid of the odor or discoloration. If not, the anode rod will need to be replaced.
While it’s possible to extend the life of a conventional water heater through regular maintenance, it will eventually wear out and need to be replaced. Our plumbing technicians can assess the condition of your tank-style water heater and recommend an appropriate replacement.
A thermostat is the control mechanism that keeps a water heater running when hot water is needed. The thermostat is usually located on the outside of the unit or in a cabinet at the top of the tank. If your water heater is acting up, you should check the thermostat first to make sure that it hasn’t tripped or that its dial isn’t set too high.
The thermostat works by detecting the temperature of the water and sending an electrical signal to turn the heating elements on or off depending on what it is reading. There are a few different types of thermostats, and each has its own way of working. One type uses a bimetallic strip that coils and uncoils based on the water’s temperature, triggering an electric switch to start the water heater. Another kind of thermostat, called a rod and tube thermostat, has two pieces of metal with dissimilar coefficients of thermal expansion that create proportional pressure on a diaphragm or piston assembly that actuates the electrical switch.
There is also a third kind of thermostat called a mercury switch, which has a vial of mercury with three wires inside it that make connections when tilted left or right. This kind of thermostat is less common than the others.
If you have an older water heater, the parts in it may be worn out or corroded. If this is the case, your water heater will probably need to be replaced.
A malfunctioning dip tube is another possibility for a faulty water heater. If the dip tube breaks, it could cause cold water to mix in with the hot water. Unless you’re comfortable replacing a dip tube, you should call a professional plumber to do it for you.
If your gas water heater is having problems, it’s possible that its pilot light has gone out. If this is the case, it’s important to follow the safety instructions in the manual that came with your water heater to relight the pilot light correctly. If this doesn’t fix the problem, it might be a sign that your thermocouple or gas control valve has failed.
Anode rods are long metal rods, usually made of magnesium or aluminum. Their purpose is to attract the iron, limestone and rust in the water that would otherwise corrode the steel tank. This saves the water heater and keeps the water clean, but they do wear out after a while and need to be replaced periodically. You can determine when they are worn out by noticing a “rotten egg” smell or looking at the rod and seeing that it is quite corroded.
Depending on your model, the anode rod may be exposed or hidden within the tank. If the former, it may be covered by a plastic cap. On the latter, you may need to remove a screw and insulating material to expose it. The first step in removing the rod is to turn off the power and drain the water heater (if it has a gas valve, use the “vacation” setting on the pilot light to avoid relighting when you’re done).
Once you have the tank empty, loosen the hex head bolt with a socket wrench, using work gloves, as it will be hot. When the bolt is loosened, pull out the old anode rod. The sacrificial anode will likely be corroded to the point that you can no longer see it. If you have trouble getting the rod out, you can try bending it, though this will make it harder to replace in the future.
When installing the new anode, smear Teflon pipe thread sealant on the end that will be in contact with the tank to help prevent leaks. If you have limited space above the tank, consider purchasing a flexible anode rod instead of the traditional model; these are made from short segments that snap together like tent poles.
Place the anode rod into place, tighten the bolt and install a new plastic cap. Then drain and refill the tank to flush out any sediment that might have collected at the bottom of the tank. Be sure to turn on the power and water again after you’re finished working to ensure that everything is running correctly.
Flushing the Tank
It’s important to regularly flush your water heater tank, which removes mineral buildup and prevents a corrosive layer that reduces the tank’s capacity. This is one of the most common maintenance tasks that DIYers miss, but it can help you save money in the long run.
First, turn off the power to your water heater at the circuit breaker or fuse box. This is an important safety measure because water inside a hot water tank can cause scalding burns if touched. Then, open a hot water faucet in your home to prevent a vacuum that could keep water from flowing.
Then, attach a hose to the standard outside-style drain valve on the bottom of the tank. It’s typically located next to the thermostat control knob. Open the drain valve and allow the water to drain for about 10 minutes. Then close the drain valve.
Repeat this process until you have drained about four gallons of water from the tank. This should flush out most of the sediment, but you may need to drain more.
After you drain the tank, use a bucket to catch the water. If the water is cloudy or you still see sediment in the bucket, you may need to flush it again. Repeat the procedure until you have clear water and no sediment in the bucket.
Finally, flush the drain and anode rod. This is a simple task for a plumber, but you can do it yourself with the right equipment.
A faulty or improperly installed gas water heater can leak carbon monoxide, an odorless and tasteless but deadly gas that can poison your family if in sufficient concentrations. It’s also a fire hazard and must be repaired or replaced immediately.
The best way to avoid these problems is to have a plumber inspect and service your tank-style water heater twice a year, and perform routine maintenance on it in between. This will not only keep your water heater running efficiently but will lower your energy bills, too. If you notice signs of a malfunctioning water heater, like lack of hot water or strange smells and tastes in your home’s water, call the plumbing experts at Simpson Plumbing today.