From water leaks to pilot lights, there’s a time to repair and a time to replace

It can be the rudest of awakenings, hopping in for that hot morning shower and suddenly you’re dancing around on your tiptoes to escape a torrent of cold water. It’s in that moment you think about something that normally toils away for years in the shadow of your home’s other systems; the water heater. For the most part, water heaters last a long time, however, when they start to go, the signs are usually very noticeable and inconvenient.

Here are 8 common signs that your water heater is starting to struggle and needs immediate attention.

1. That unexpected cold shower: In the shower, or anywhere in the home, if your taps are running cold water it could mean you have a faulty thermostat, a lack of power to the tank, or a faulty heating element. If you’re able to rule out power loss as the culprit, check the thermostat to make sure it’s receiving power. If it is getting power, the thermostat could be broken or one of the following

2. Warm water: If your water only gets warm at best, it could mean a few things; your tank is too small to supply the hot water demands of your household, your hot and cold connections are crossed, the heating element is faulty, or the thermostat isn’t working properly. To check if cold and hot are crossed, turn off the water supply and turn on any hot water faucet in the home. If water comes out, you have crossed connections. If you determine the lines are fine, then tank size, thermostat or heating element are the culprits. In all of these cases, you need a skilled, certified, insured professional plumber from Ben Franklin Plumbing. Our experts diagnose and repair water tanks for customers every day and we look for the best, most cost effective solution first. If someone tries to sell you on a costly tank replacement right out of the gate, let Ben Franklin take a look before you spend that money. Let’s keep exploring other potential issues with your water heater tank.

3. Hot water: We want hot water, but not too hot. In this case, the problem is usually a thermostat set too high. Depending on the brand of tank you own, the owner’s manual will indicate how to adjust the thermostat. The U.S. Department of Energy recommends 120° (F) as the optimum setting. If the thermostat seems faulty, then just like warm and cold water issues concerns, give Ben Franklin Plumbing a call and we’ll come take a look at your earliest convenience.

4. Water leaks: Water leaking from the tank is understandably disconcerting and could mean a number of things, most are pretty straightforward to repair.

  • Leak in plumbing connection
  • Improper water pressure
  • Stuck valve
  • Heating element bolts are loose
  • Cracked or bad gasket
  • Unit is overheating
  • Faulty T&P relief valve (temperature and pressure)
  • Crack or hole in water tank

Troubleshooting steps you can take:

  • Carefully check the plumbing connections to the tank and ensure they are all appropriately tight. Take care not to overtighten them. Make note if any are wet or actively leaking.
  • Check the bolts that connect the heating element, do so gently to not overtighten. If the heating element continues to leak after tightening, it may mean the gasket is cracked and needs to be replaced (a repair best left to your Ben Franklin plumbing professional).
  • Visually inspect the entire tank to make sure there are no leaking cracks or holes in the tank itself. Corrosion, which happens as tanks age, starts inside the tank so by the time you actively see a crack or leak, the tank could be nearing the end of its life cycle.

5. Dirty water: If you notice a rusty tint to your water, corrosion in the tank is usually to blame. Remember, corrosion starts on the inside of the tank, so when it gets to the point that it’s starting to impact water quality, it’s pretty far along. Unfortunately, in this case, the only remedy is to replace the tank and Ben Franklin Plumbing has several affordable options for you.

6. Smelly water: Not to get too personal, but we need to ask what kind of smell we’re talking about here. If it’s a musty “damp clothes unpacked after summer camp” smell, there’s a high probability that bacteria is the cause. This is also highly likely if your water comes from a well. There are two ways to address it; flush and refill your tank or boil the existing water to kill the bacteria. A rinse with chlorine bleach will also help eliminate the bacteria and odor. If the smell leans more toward rotten eggs, you might have a failing anode rod which, if so, would need to be replaced.

7. Pilot light is out: There are a few reasons; it may simply need to be replaced, the pilot light orifice or tube is blocked, the vent is dirty, the thermocouple is loose or broken, there is air in the gas line or the gas line itself no longer functions. Your plumbing professional can quickly pinpoint where your problem lies.

8. Tank makes noise: The most common cause is sediment build-up. These particles may pop, scratch, and bang around as the water heats up. As with bacteria, the solution is flushing and refilling your tank to remove that sediment. If the amount of sediment is too great, you’ll need a new water heater.

Whether your water tank is gas or electric (or if you’ve gone tankless) you should leave repairs to a professional. What may start out as a relatively simple and inexpensive fix could escalate quickly if DIY attempts goes awry. Plus, there are local codes and regulations governing water heater replacements and installations which require an inspector to sign off on the work. Let insured and “code savvy” professionals at Ben Franklin Plumbing address your water heater concerns correctly, safely, and affordably the first time.

If you put “Best Plumbers Near Me” in your search engine, we’re at the top of that list, now let us be at the top of yours! Be it an emergency or routine plumbing service, we’ll respond quickly, quote fairly, and talk to you honestly. Our monthly service and product specials can also save you money!

Schedule your complete water heater inspection and annual service now!

Visit or call our 24/7 customer service line today (704) 802-1379.