A hot water tank is a quiet, often-ignored part of a home’s plumbing system. They tend to go unchecked, quietly providing consistent hot water to the fixtures. However, if left ignored for too long, severe problems may develop which can be disastrous, and, if you need an emergency replacement, expensive.
Here are five signs it might be time to replace your tank:
Rust in certain areas of a hot water tank can indicate failure. A corroded inlet nipple may indicate that the inside of the tank has finished corroding.
Corrosion around the base of the jacket may be an indication of leakage from the shell. The one in this photo, a 10-year old tank manufactured by General Electric, shows signs of upcoming failure.
A fogged burner window may indicate moisture in the burner chamber. Moisture in the burner area indicates either very poor combustion at the gas burners, or a leaking shell. If you see this issue, you should be calling a plumber.
Most household hot water tanks have a service life of between 8-12 years, depending on usage and region. The oldest tank I’ve ever seen was from 1986 – almost 30 years old! At the ten-year mark you should start budgeting for replacement.
Determining age is easy – just take a look at the serial number on the plate. Most manufacturers will have the year encoded in the serial. If you need help, go to the building center, a great site with a comprehensive list of manufacturer’s date codes.
One the inside of hot water tank has fully corroded, heat transfer is greatly reduced (metal oxide, better known as rust, is an insulator). Symptoms will include, but are not limited to, running out of hot water during showers, lukewarm water (even when the thermostat is turned up), and a constantly firing burner.
Burnt areas at the top of the burner access are usually a sign of flame rollout; where the flame (usually during start up) will “roll out” of the burner chamber, scorching the outer jacket. Check for discoloration above the access port.
Although this doesn’t necessarily mean the tank must be replaced, it is a serious issue and a fire hazard, and a plumber should be called for further review.
Author David Fairbairn is a certified, licensed home inspector serving Vancouver and the Lower Mainland. He has been featured in the media and has contributed to "24" Newspaper, and Global TV. He has spent years working with residential and commercial building projects, and holds a Power Engineering License in BC. Why not give him a call for your next Home Inspection? Call 604 395-2795 or email email@example.com today!