A piping hot shower is one of life’s little luxuries. But a properly operating hot water system is about more than just luxury. Your hot water system is one of the biggest users of energy in your home, accounting for anywhere between 15% and 30% of your power bills. It can also be the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the average Aussie home.
A hot water system that isn’t working properly could mean you’re paying much more for your monthly power bills than you need to. It could also pose a health risk if it’s affecting the quality of your water.
Here are 5 signs that you might want to look at replacing your hot water system.
- The age of the system
Hot water systems are generally designed for about 8 to 12 years of good working life. Of course this will differ depending on the type and quality of the system. Regardless of that, any system older than 15 years should be showing serious signs of wear and will probably be in need of replacement.
Whether it’s due to wear and tear or outdated technology, older hot water systems won’t run as efficiently as newer systems, leading to higher power costs. If you’re unsure of the age of your system, you can check the serial number on the unit or look up the model number on the manufacturer’s website. The manufacturer should be able to provide an estimated working life for your specific model.
If you have a system that’s older than 10 years, it’s definitely worth getting a plumber in to take a look. While it might still be working, you could quickly end up paying more over time for repairs, maintenance and power costs than the cost of a new unit.
- Rusty water
If your water is taking on a rusty colour or a metallic taste or smell you may be dealing with rust and corrosion in your hot water system. Rust in your water is a serious problem that should be dealt with as quickly as possible. It can be a health concern and can do damage to appliances like dishwashers and washing machines.
Corrosion is an insidious process, and once it has taken hold in a water heater it will continue to do its damage. Unfortunately, corrosion is also inevitable in systems that are past their use-by dates. However, rusty water isn’t necessarily a water heater problem. It can also be caused by rusty pipes or faucets. A plumber will be able to track down the source of the rust and advise you on the best course of action. However, if you have rust in your hot water tank, then it will need to be replaced.
- Leaking systems
As your hot water system heats and cools, it will naturally expand and contract. Over time, this can lead to small fractures in the system and minor or temporary leaks. Leaks can also be the result of worn tank fittings or connections or problems with the overflow pipe. If your system is leaking, you may start to notice standing water around your hot water tank or slow drips on or around the system or its fittings. Even minor leaks can be a serious problem, as they are signs of weaknesses in the system that could turn into major flooding and water damage at any time. As your system ages, leaks will become increasingly likely through general aging and operational wear and tear. New systems can also be subject to leaks due to physical damage, like a bump or knock to the system.
- Unusual noises from the system
Unusual noises coming from your water heater, like banging or rumbling, are another sign that you may need to replace your hot water system. Over time, sediment will start to build up at the bottom of the water tank. While sediment can be removed by regularly flushing out the tank, it will eventually solidify if left untreated. This solidified sediment will expand and contract as it heats and cools, making noises in the tank.
Sediment in the tank can cause a number of problems. It will affect the unit’s efficiency by making the system have to work harder to heat the water. It can also weaken the metal at the bottom of the tank and increase the likelihood of leaks. If you hear any strange noises coming from your hot water system, it’s worth calling a plumber.
- Shortage of hot water
A common problem with faulty or older hot water systems is a shortage of hot water or inconsistent water temperature. This can be caused by a number of issues including problems with the thermostat, a broken heating element or a buildup of sediment in the tank. If your family is growing and your water consumption is increasing, you may be running out of hot water because your system capacity is too small. While some of these problems may be repairable, generally you will need to look at upgrading to a new system.
If you notice these signs, call a plumber
If you notice any of the signs discussed above, you should call a plumber as soon as possible. Ignoring even a minor issue could end up costing you even more money in the long run. Additionally, you run the risk of serious water damage from major leaks or a burst system. Since your hot water system is responsible for a significant portion of your power usage and a major contributor to your monthly power bills, if your system isn’t running efficiently you could be paying much more per month than you need to. Don’t take the risk. Learn to identify the problem signs and keep your hot water system in peak working order.