Three Tips To Troubleshoot A Faulty Hot Water Heater

The hot water heater. Most of us never give it a passing thought other than the fact that it sends delicious, steaming water into your bath at the end of a long, stressful day. Except one day, your water isn't so hot. Or maybe it doesn't look or smell right. Or you go into your basement and notice the hot water heater is making weird noises. Any of these issues obviously point to a faulty hot water heater. Your first instinct will probably be to rush to the phone book and look up a plumber to fix the problems. But with a little troubleshooting, you may be able to handle the issues yourself – and save a little time and a lot of money.

No Hot Water

The usual culprit for no hot water is the heating element. Depending on the model and size of your unit, you may have one or multiple elements. With multiple elements, there will be a top or bottom element. If you have very little hot water, the top element is faulty. If you have no hot water at all, the bottom one is faulty. You can purchase a new element at a local home improvement store. To replace the part, remove it using a special heating element wrench, unscrew it, replace it with the new element, and screw it back in using the wrench. Always make sure the water and power are turned off before you work on the water heater.

Discolored or Smelly Water

If you have water coming out of your faucets that is discolored or smelly, there may be a serious issue going on. Never drink water that has a weird smell or color. Any water that looks red, brown, or yellow may be a sign of rust in the water.This could originate from pipes or the water heater. Replacing bad pipes and installing a water filtration system can help this issue.

Smelly water usually means there is bacteria growing inside the water heater. It's usually the anode rod that is corrupted and can easily be replaced to repair the problem. A water softener and filtration system can go a long way towards fixing this, too, just like the colored water.

Noisy Water Heater

A water heater that is making weird noises may have a sediment build-up. The hot water bubbles up over the sediment and it will make loud popping sounds. You can fix this by flushing out the system every so often. To flush the tank, you need to open the cold water intake and let the tank fill halfway while the water washes away the sediment. Use the drain valve to empty the tank and continue until all the sediment has rinsed away. Install a water softening system in your house to avoid this issue in the future.


So now you know how to troubleshoot three common issue with your hot water system. If none of these tips work, you may need to consult a professional. Seek the services of a plumber who can give you expert advice on whether the hot water heater can be repaired or needs to be replaced.