A simple, visual inspection of your water heater at least once a month can help you catch many early signs of a potentially bigger problem. A huge puddle on the basement floor often starts as a slow drip.

Here are 5 Signs You Need A New Water Heater, along with simple, last-chance DIY guidance before you buy a new, energy-efficient water heater.

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1. Noises

Noises aren’t just a symptom of old houses. For many reasons, new houses and mechanical systems may produce noise.

The mere existence of a noise doesn’t necessarily mean there’s a problem. Often a noise problem can simply be expanding and contracting parts or internal drips from a leaking appliance.

If your well or municipal water source has high levels of calcium and magnesium, known as hard water, the noise may be coming from inside your water heater.

The calcium and magnesium minerals in the water recrystallize in heat, which causes them to build up on the inside of the tank and on the heating element of electric heaters.

The crystalized buildup eventually pops when it explodes and flakes off. There’s no immediate danger from this phenomena. Over time, the scale flakes will clog plumbing and ruin the efficiency of the water heater, according to HomeTips.

Over time, the build-up of minerals at the bottom of the tank escalates corrosion in the tank.

Quick Fix: Replacing the magnesium or aluminum anode rod may minimize mineral corrosion.

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2. Discolored and stinky hot water

Never drink any water that doesn’t look right or smells funny. Always properly identify the problem. 

Do you smell garlic?

You may be smelling natural gas from your gas water heater and not water all.

Quick Fix: Turn off the gas to the water heater. After the natural gas has cleared from the room, relight the pilot.

Does only the hot water look brown, have a metallic taste, or smell like rotten eggs?

The water heater’s anode rod may need replacing. The anode is meant to attract corrosive sulfates in the water to spare the tank. The closer your water heater gets to 10 years old, the more likely you’ll need to replace it.

Quick Fix: Flush the water tank and replace the anode rod.

If your water looks and smells good and passes water tests, but leaves blue stains on your tub and sink, your source water may be acidic.

Quick Fix: You need to raise the pH of your water when it comes into your home. Installing a soda ash (sodium carbonate) or sodium hydroxide injection system will raise the pH without creating hardness problems, according to the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

Bitter-tasting water may have a pH that’s too high (greater than 8.5). Water with a high pH is safe to drink, but may cause dry, itchy, and irritated skin, according to UCLA Health.

Quick Fix: Install an acid injection system to lower the pH to 7.

Hot and cold water that’s discolored or stinks means the cause lies in the source water.

Quick Fix: Install a whole-house filter to remove dirt, iron, copper, and other minerals.

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3. Hot water runs out

If you’ve “never had enough hot water,” your existing water heater may be too small for your needs.

Massachusetts homeowners typically find an indirect water heater is the most fuel-efficient choice for hot water.

But first, try raising the temperature of the existing water heater.

Raising the water temperature slightly requires you to use more cold water to cool it down so you end up using less hot water overall.  Keep in mind, tank-based water heaters should be set to 120 degrees Fahrenheit to avoid scalding, according to the Department of Energy (DOE) and Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Wait up to 3 hours to test your new temperature.

If you ran out of hot water and it hasn’t come back on, check to see if the pilot light on your gas furnace is out.

Do you run out of hot water more frequently in winter?

There may be under-insulated or exposed pipes somewhere along the plumbing system. When hot water passes through this cold spot, it cools, which requires more hot water to maintain temperature.

Discover other ways to save energy cost in cold weather.

Quick Fix: Follow your home’s plumbing system and add insulation where needed.

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4. Water is too hot

When steam and scalding hot water gushes out of faucets and you hear a gurgling noise inside the water heater, the burner may not be shutting off when it reaches temperature, according to Don Vandervort from HomeTips.com.

This situation puts people in danger of getting burned at the faucets. Also, the hot water tank can rupture from the high pressure so approach it with caution if you plan to inspect the water heater yourself.

Quick Fix: If the water is simply too hot, you may be able to solve the problem yourself by turning down the temperature to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Wait up to 3 hours for the temperature to change.

In any situation that feels dangerous, get away from the water heater and call a licensed plumber immediately.

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5. No hot water

If no hot water comes out of the faucet after letting it run for several minutes, and you have an electric water heater, there may be a problem with the main power source, the electric thermostat, or the upper electric heating element.

Gas and oil water heaters may have a pilot light out. Relight the pilot if it’s out.

Once you’re sure the pilot is lit, turn on the hot water and stand by the water heater and listen for the burner to turn on.

If the burner doesn’t kick on, raise the thermostat temperature 5 degrees. Still nothing? Lower the hot water temperature 10 degrees. If nothing happens, you may have a problem with the thermostat.

Have your new water heater installed by an Angie’s List Super Service Award–winning contractor.

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If your question isn’t answered here, contact the friendly team at Genove Oil & Air, and we’ll find a solution for your home or business.

Whether you need home heating oil or Bioheat delivery, or installation and service of oil & natural gas systems for HVAC, heating, and cooling—call us at 781-893-9191 or email us.