Save the Stress: Hot Water Tanks 101

By: Wawanesa Insurance
May 5, 2022

Understand your hot water tank better – including warning signs, how to check if it needs maintenance and how an inspection can help.

Everyone has heard a hot water tank horror story—from breaking during a cold snap to leaking in the middle of the night.

Hot water tank disasters can sneak up on you if they’re not monitored for signs of wear and tear. It’s important to keep an eye on yours so you can fix any issues before they become too serious.

Does your hot water tank need maintenance?

There are two simple steps you can take to evaluate if your tank needs maintenance (which can save you future stress).

Step 1: Perform a visual check

When you perform your visual check, take into account how old your tank is. Most hot water tanks last approximately 10 to 15 years but can show signs of damage much earlier.

Here are some warning signs that your tank may be in need of maintenance or an upgrade:

  • Rust-coloured water
  • Uneven temperatures
  • Valve or pipe leaks
  • Unwanted water around your tank
  • Unusual noises

If any of these signs are showing, take immediate action by connecting with an expert in your area.

Step 2: Have a contractor do an inspection

While you can do a visual check of your hot water tank, it doesn’t hurt to have an expert contractor inspect your tank as well, especially if you’re unsure of anything. They’ll be able to have a thorough look and notice anything you might have missed.

How to properly maintain your hot water tank

We recommend you have all your hot water tank maintenance performed by a qualified contractor who will ensure your tank is working efficiently and safely! Here are some of the things they’ll look at:

  • Valves and rods. Your contractor should inspect all the valves and rods on the system, especially the anode rod. This is a metal rod located inside your tank which is designed to corrode so your tank doesn’t.
  • Pressure and temperature. Your contractor should test the Temperature and Pressure Relief (TPR) Valve to make sure everything is working properly. This valve is important as it releases water if the pressure or temperature in the tank exceeds a safe level.
  • Ventilation. During the inspection, they’ll measure the space around your tank to ensure it meets safety codes and is approved for proper airflow and ventilation.
  • Carbon monoxide. Gas heaters that are poorly vented, weren’t installed properly or simply aren’t maintained are at risk for leaking carbon monoxide. Your contractor should perform an indoor air quality test to ensure your tank is venting properly and there aren’t any traces of carbon monoxide in the air.
  • Water quality. Your contractor will test the quality and temperature of your water to ensure the PH and bacteria levels are within a safe range.
  • Sediment buildup. Over time, calcium, magnesium and other minerals found in your water will form particles that settle at the bottom of your hot water tank. Your contractor will drain the sediment, preventing your tank from having performance issues and needing costly repairs.

Each manufacturer is different and the process can be tricky, so it’s important to have a qualified contractor inspect your tank every three years.

What are the signs of the hot water tank going bad?

  • You don’t have enough hot water. This is one of the easiest warning signs to spot. If you don’t have enough hot water to shower or wash the dishes, it means your tank isn’t producing enough hot water (and it should be looked at).
  • Your water temperature isn’t consistent. One second it’s hot, the other it’s cold. If your water temperature isn’t consistent, there could be something wrong.
  • Your water is discoloured or smells funny. If you notice rust or dark discolouration, and/or odd smells that aren’t consistent with what you’re used to, there may be bacteria or rust in your hot water tank. It may also be a signal that your anode rod needs to be replaced.
  • Your hot water tank is getting old. If your hot water tank is reaching the 10-year mark, it may be worth having an inspection to ensure everything looks okay. Even if you don’t think there are any issues, age alone can be a sign that your hot water tank may not be performing at optimum levels.
  • Your tank is making odd noises. If you’re hearing loud cracks, pops, gurgles, whining, banging or boiling, something may be wrong with your tank. You’ll want to have it looked at immediately.
  • You notice reduced water flow. If you’re noticing less water flow or reduced pressure, it could mean there’s a buildup of sediment at the bottom of your heater. It’s a good idea to address this as soon as you notice it so it doesn’t escalate and get worse with time.

How much does it cost to replace a hot water tank?

On average, it costs from $600 to $1,800 to replace your average standard tank. If you’re looking to purchase a tankless heater, it’ll cost anywhere from $800 to $3,500. Gas water tanks cost about $100 to $700 more to install than electric. If you think a new hot water tank is in your future, it’s a good idea to budget so you can save accordingly. Many contractors also offer financing options.

Keep your head above water!

Understanding how your hot water tank works and how to maintain it is an easy way to prevent water damage in your home. If you are unsure if your hot water tank is working correctly, connect with an expert in your area.

Reach out to your licensed broker at Newman Insurance to review the water loss coverage in your policy.

 Let’s be flooded with joy, not water.

The content in this article is for information purposes only and is not intended to be relied upon as professional or expert advice.