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Water Heater Malfunctions: Things You Should Know

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The water heater is a vital part of the modern home. It provides hot water for showers, baths, and other uses such as laundry or washing dishes. Unfortunately, it is prone to malfunction at times. 

Knowing the signs of a potential issue can help prevent further damage and the need for costly repairs. This article will discuss the signs of water heater malfunctions and what should be done in such cases.

5 Common Water Heater Malfunctions

Regular check-ups of your water heater can help it last longer and perform better. These will also help you identify possible issues that may affect its performance. Here are some issues that can cause your water heater to malfunction or perform poorly.


Rusting on the exterior of your water heater can also be a sign of internal damage. It might be caused by moisture, condensation, or corrosion of the metal tank, which can be due to certain minerals in the water—especially if you’re receiving a supply of hard water. Rust can lead to leaking and other issues with heating performance, such as inadequate hot water or low-temperature output. It can also create an environment for bacterial growth, leading to further contamination and potential health risks. 

Discolored Water

If your water heater is releasing brown, yellow, or red-colored water, it can be a sign of corrosion inside the water tank. The water itself may also appear cloudy due to particles that are not supposed to be present in it. This issue is typically caused by rust buildup due to age, lack of maintenance, or the presence of bacteria in the tank.

Bad Odor

Unusual smells coming from your water heater can be indicative of the growth of bacteria inside it. These odors vary in intensity and type, ranging from sulfuric to musty or metallic. This can be caused by a lack of regular maintenance, resulting in a buildup of sediments that can house these bacteria; draining and flushing the water tank can mitigate this.

Unusually High Energy Bills

Homeowners should pay close attention to their monthly energy bills, as an unexpected spike can indicate something is wrong with their water heater. Insulation that is not up to par or has degraded over time will cause your water heater to work harder than usual to produce hot water, resulting in higher energy costs. Also, an oversized system consumes more energy than regular ones, so if your water heater is too big for your home, you can expect your utility costs to be higher than usual.

Insufficient Supply of Hot Water

If your water heater isn’t producing enough hot water, then there must be something wrong with your water heater system. It could be due to sediment buildup, clogs, leaks, water pressure issues, wiring problems, or a malfunctioning thermostat. Another reason may be that your system is too undersized for your home that it can’t keep up with the demand for hot water.

Top Reasons for Water Heater Malfunctions

Water heater malfunctions are a common occurrence in the home. Many homeowners experience problems with their water heaters, that’s why understanding the causes and signs of these malfunctions is important for knowing when to call for repairs. The following are possible causes of water heater failure, which are also clear signs that you may need a water heater repair service.

Sediment buildup

Sediments inside the water heater tank is one of the most common reasons for water heaters to malfunction. When hard minerals such as calcium and magnesium dissolve in the water, they can form deposits inside the tank or on heating elements. Over time, these deposits can aggregate and harden, causing clogs that may lead to reduced efficiency, decrease in production of hot water, or other problems such as noisy operation or corrosion. 

Broken thermostat

The thermostat controls the temperature of your water by cycling the burner on and off. It may malfunction due to a damaged wiring or accumulation of dust, causing reduced production of hot water, or erratic, fluctuating temperatures.

Electrical issues

Wiring problems, tripped circuit breakers, loose connections, and issues with power sources can all lead to your water heater’s poor performance; these issues can also cause your unit to crash. It’s important to be aware of the status of these components so that any necessary repairs can be made promptly before further damage occurs.

Water Heater Troubleshooting Tips

Water heaters are essential for most households; they provide hot water to showers, sinks, and other appliances. As such, homeowners must understand the signs of water heater troubles and know some basic troubleshooting to prevent further damage to their homes. Here are troubleshooting tips for some water issues that you can do before calling for help from a water heater repair or replacement service.


Check the plumbing lines and heating elements for loose connections, and tighten them just enough to stop the leaks. Note that tightening the connections too much might worsen the leaking problem. If there is a leak in the water tank, then it’s most likely corroded; this cannot be remedied by basic troubleshooting and requires immediate replacement before the damages get worse and cause flooding in your home.

No Hot Water

This could indicate a broken heating element or a temperature setting that is too low. Check the water heater’s circuit breaker to see if it has tripped, then switch it off and then back on.

Too Hot Water Temperature

This has something to do with your water heater’s thermostat being set too high. Look at your water heater’s manual on how to adjust the temperature; the  U.S. Department of Energy recommends setting the water heater to 120° F for the best balance of heat and efficiency. 

Noises in The Water Tank

The popping sounds in your water tank may be caused by sediments building up at the bottom of the tank, causing it to overheat and boil the water. Draining the tank of these sediments might solve the issue, but the tank might need to be replaced if the problem persists.

Rust-Colored or Cloudy Water

This may be caused by the failing anode rod in your water tank. This requires professional hands to solve; call a Ventura plumber to replace the anode rod. If this doesn’t solve the issue, then it’s time to get your water heater replaced.

The Bottom Line

It is important to recognize signs of water heater malfunctions to prevent any potential issues from happening. If left untreated, a malfunctioning water heater can get damaged even further, cause potential safety hazards due to leakage or flooding, and bring ruin to the home, costing thousands of dollars in repairs. If you see any issue or signs of damage in your water heater, don’t hesitate to seek professional help.

Hansen’s Plumbing is a leading plumbing contractor in Ventura, California, including water heater installation. We work to keep your home and property safe. Contact us so we can address your water heater problems as soon as possible.

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