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Machines; One thing that keeps us attached to our machines & devices is the simple fact that they are our assistants in the day-to-day tasks that would otherwise take us longer or cost us more energy or even superhuman strength to complete. Water heaters since their invention have remained to be among those machines that we just cannot be without, even throughout the hot seasons, hot water is a necessity that we can’t do without. And so, the frustration of having a water heater suddenly malfunction is absolutely justifiable. There is something of a betrayal to it. It’s a machine, it’s not like it needs a vacation, or even can need a vacation at all. But it is really not so surprising that a water heater will malfunction from time to time considering the complexity involved in building one and how much work we tend to put them through.

Sure, it may not need a vacation, but even machines need a time-out and regular maintenance to continue being our reliable sidekick for an extended period of time and without any glitches.
One can only hope to know a trick or two that can help them diagnose and possibly deal with a faulty water heater that happens at a time when you need it to work the most. This is why we have compiled a ‘what-to-do’ guide for you to follow if it seems like your water heater is faulty and also given some pointers on how to spot one that might start being problematic. It goes without saying that calling a qualified heating and hot water plumber to deal with this problem should be the default go-to but it is also important to have an idea of what is going on prior to doing so and this guide will take you through just that.

First things first.

What kind of faults are we on about?
So much can go wrong with a water heater so we’re obviously not going to cover all possible faults, nor are we going to cover brand or type-specific faults. Our short guide is a great help for the following common water heater problems:

1. Water from the heater looks and/or smells unusual.
2. The water temperature is too cold.
3. The water temperature is too hot.
4. The water can’t seem to get quite hot enough.
5. There is water leaking from a component of the water heater.
6. The water heater makes strange noises you haven’t noticed before.

If any of this sounds like your current water heater situation then read ahead to find out how to diagnose the problem further and the best ways to deal with it.

1. Water from the heater looks and/or smells unusual.

If the water coming out of your heater has a rusty shade and is accompanied by a metallic smell, that is a sign of corrosion inside your heater’s inner walls which is in turn caused by a failing anode rod. The best way to deal with this is to call a technician and let them examine the problem and help you decide between replacing the faulty part or the entire heater.
If the water coming out of the heater has a cloudy coloring to it then, that is a sign of mineral deposit buildup inside it which has advanced to the point of both clogging the heater and being oversaturated in the water coming out of it. At this point, it is probably affecting other components of the heater and it is well beyond time to call a technician on it as well.

2. The water temperature is too cold.

If the temperature of the water coming from your heater is way too cold for water coming out of a plugged-in heater, then proceed to first check if the thermostat is set right. We don’t want to be fixing parts that don’t need it because of a turned-off thermostat.

If the thermostat is set right, the heater is plugged in and the water is still cold then you are dealing will a low power supply to the heater which means one of the following cases is true;
1. There isn’t any power reaching the heater. Are the power indicators on the heat on? If not check both the immediate switch and your home’s circuit breakers to see if any have tripped (call a technician if it trips again soon after you turn it on, that is a sign of a bigger issue with your home’s electric system).
2.There isn’t any power reaching the heating component of the device, which might indicate a blown fuse. Find a technician to replace that and you are good to go.
3. Power gets to the heating component but it is faulty and therefore not producing enough heat. If this is the case then you have to get it replaced by a qualified technician.

3. The water temperature is too hot.

If the water coming from your heater is too hot the first culprit is always the thermostat. Either it was accidentally set to too high a temperature or it is broken. Check your thermostat’s manual to see how to regulate it if you don’t know how. The more modern varieties might even have a body of online documentation and videos you can follow easily on the internet. If you follow the instructions to the letter and the water is still too hot then the thermostat is probably broken and requires a professional to check it out.

4. The water is not cold but it is also not hot enough.

First, check if the heater is in working order, if it is then this can also be another indicator of a faulty thermostat. Check to see if it is set and all its indicator lights show that it’s working right, then proceed to diagnose the system again.

Thermostats are not the only possible culprit, water not being hot enough can also often be caused by crossed connections, that is, there is a bit of a spillover from the cold-water connection into the hot water connection pipe. To see if this is the case, turn off the normal water supply and open the hot water tap only. If the water flowing is still not hot enough then that is definitely a sign of crossed connections.

5. There is water leaking from a component of the heater.

Water leaking can cost you serious money in water damage. Never take even the smallest leakage lightly.  So much can go wrong even from just tiny drops running down a wall consistently, it can also build up to a pretty hefty water bill by the end of the year. If there is a sign of any leakage around the heater tank or adjacent connection tubes, make sure that all connections are secured tightly (not too tightly as that can cause fractures which will lead to more leaking). You can also try regulating pressure so that there aren’t great amounts of it overbearing on the connected components.

6. The heater makes strange noises you haven’t noticed before

When you notice your heater making a rumbling or popping noises you never caught before, that is a sign of sedimentary buildup inside it and also a sure sign of time to schedule a check-up of your heater. The noise is a symptom of the heater failing to keep up with the hard task of heating water with a layer of minerals covering its walls and base. Adding a bit of water softener to the tank can help fix this problem but if it persists consult a technician to see available options.  

Additional factors

Is your water heater old?

Good water heaters tend to last up to 10 years with proper maintenance. After that, longevity is pretty much a matter of chance. So, although not a fault, having an old heater is a good indicator that you might soon start dealing with actual faults. If you do not remember how long back you bought the heater that is a great sign that it’s too old. But don’t take our word for it, check its labelling for a manufacturer date. If it’s not explicitly specified somewhere in the labelling then the first two digits on its serial number represent the last two digits of the year( in the 2000s) it was made.

Have you been scheduling regular checks?

If not then it is also very likely that you are about to have a faulty heater in your hands. Water is not totally unreactive; this is what gives it versatility after all. Water also usually contains other substances mixed with it like particles too small to be filtered and particles eroded from pipes as water travels through them, there are also small quantities of other impurities from several other sources, which means that over time, there is going to be a build-up of all that stuff in a heater tank over time. This gradually adds more strain to the heater making it more susceptible to damage. So regular checks will not only keep your heater working smoothie, but also help it last longer.


Heaters, like all inventions of technology, are reliable but susceptible to breakage and faulty operation to some degree. Here is a list of possible heater woes that may trouble you and one solution to rule them all;

– Temperature issues; water from the heater is too hot, not hot enough or too cold.
– Leakage from or around the water tank
– Strange colouring and odour on water
– Strange noises coming out of the heater

The One Solution.
Call a professional to deal with it the moment you notice any of the above. A faulty heater can lead to serious water damage which can lead to serious damage to the pockets.
Our heating and hot water technicians and plumbers are experienced and certified. Get in touch with us 24/7 for Emergency Heating and Hot Water Plumbing Services.