Identifying Water Heater Problems Before It's Too Late
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Identifying Water Heater Problems Before It’s Too Late

From time to time, you may run into trouble with your water heater.

No, it probably won’t blow a hole through your roof, but that doesn’t mean the problems aren’t a big deal.

Learning to identify water heater problems can end up saving you quite a bit of time and money. In the long run, you’ll be glad you spotted what was wrong early on.

Some problems might be obvious, others less so. That’s why today we’re going to talk about how to identify these problems before they become major issues. Take a look.

Common Water Heater Problems

No Hot Water

Unless you’re taking cold showers every day, you’ll notice this pretty quickly. It’s the most basic of the water heater problems that most people run into.

So, if you have a gas water heater, your first order of business should be to check the pilot light. If the light is out, your gas burner won’t ignite, and you’ll be stuck with cold water.

But why would this happen? One culprit could be your thermocouple. Your thermocouple is the part that tells the gas valve to let gas flow to the tip of the pilot light.

A new thermocouple is relatively cheap–$5 or $10–and fairly simple to replace yourself.

The other issue could be a faulty gas valve. While it’s possible to fix this yourself, you should probably seek professional help. You’ll need to detach the main gas line, and there are a number of ways this could go wrong.

You might also want to check the burner, as this can be damaged over the years. A water leak can rust it, or cracks can occur after many years of use. You can also replace a burner on your own, as long as you work carefully and follow the directions.

If you have an electric water heater, your first move here should be to check the thermostat. You could have a malfunctioning heat element, which is replaceable via a DIY project.

Water Too Hot

This is just the opposite of our first problem, and again, you’ll notice it quickly. This could potentially indicate a problem with your temperature relief valve. The valve is in place to let off pressure if the water temperature gets too high.

But you can start by simply turning the temperature down on your water heater thermostat. Check back after a few hours. If the temperature is cooler, then you’re in the clear.

If the water is still too hot, then you may have a problem with the pressure relief valve.

Noise Problems

Are you hearing a knocking, banging, or creaking sound coming from your water heater? Interestingly, this probably isn’t a structural issue. It’s likely that sediment has built up in your tank.

Minerals and hard water scale can easily build up on the inside of the tank. This is especially common if you live in an area with hard water. The deposits then break off, and make the noise you hear.

You’ll need to drain the tank to clean out the sediment, so this is probably one you leave to a professional.

Alternatively, the noises could also mean that the heating element is burning out. If you’re not sure, again, it’s best to call an expert.


Do you see water on the floor near the water heater? This could mean that water is leaking from your water heater. The water is probably coming from a leaky valve or pipe. Check the pipes around the water heater.

If you don’t see a leaky pipe, then your next step is to try tightening the valve. However, these aren’t the only potential causes of a leak. So if you are experiencing leakage, then you may want to get a professional assessment.

Otherwise, you could end up with water damage to your home or belongings.

Strange Smells Or Colors In The Water


There are a number of different issues that could cause smelly or discolored water.

First, it could be your pipes. If your water is coming out with a reddish tinge, that could mean that it’s carrying rust from your pipes. The iron isn’t toxic, but it can stain clothes and dishes that you wash with it. It will probably also taste metallic.

Your best bet here may be to install a filtration system in your house.

Does the water have a greenish tinge? This could be a more serious problem. That’s because it could be coming from copper corrosion, or from lead seeping into the water.

Lead in your drinking water poses a major health risk, especially to young children. So immediately have someone look into this if you see it in your home. You may need to have the pipes replaced, as this problem often can’t be fixed by a simple filter.

If you see white or tan particles in your water, then you might be dealing with a water heater issue. These particles are probably calcium or magnesium. They aren’t harmful, but can end up clogging your system and becoming a nuisance.

These water heater problems can also usually be solved by a filtration system.


Bad smells in your water also point to a problem with the water heater. Smells like sulfur or decaying, sewage type odors may be caused by bacteria in your water tank.

These bacteria can grow if the hot water hasn’t been used in a long time, or if the thermostat is set too low. They generally aren’t harmful, but the smell and taste aren’t exactly ideal.

Bacteria in your tank will likely require the help of a plumber.

The Bottom Line

There are certain water heater problems that can be solved as a DIY project. However, not everyone has the skill or desire to handle these issues.

And then there are the major problems that should always be left to a professional. If you’re experiencing trouble with a water heater, it’s best to call someone who knows what they’re doing.

So if you live in central Indiana, give us a call at Masters Heating and Cooling. Our experts will make sure you and your water heater are well taken care of every time.

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