3 Water Heater Problems That Reduce Your Water Quality

Regardless of whether you're taking a shower, washing your hands, or cleaning your dishes, the hot water that flows through your fixtures passes through your water heater. Although your water heater has operated flawlessly for several years now, you've begun noticing an obvious decrease in your hot water quality. Here are three water heater issues that are likely causing your water quality problems:

Damaged Heating Components

If the water flowing through your plumbing fixtures is lukewarm when it's supposed to be hot (even while your thermostat is set accordingly), then your heating components likely need to be repaired or replaced. There are different issues that can cause damage to your heating elements depending on your type of water heater:

  • Electric Water Heaters

    • The heating elements in an electric water heater will require repair or replacement when minerals or debris collect inside your tank. Minute amounts of debris and sediment remain in your tap water until they flow into your water tank. Your water tank siphons water from the top of your tank, so debris and sediment will collect at the bottom of your tank.

    • As debris continues to collect at the bottom of your tank, it can eventually bury your lower heating element—causing it to overheat and fail. This problem can be prevented by having your tank drained annually.

  • Gas Water Heaters

    • Your heater's burner assembly is located in a combustion chamber directly beneath your water tank. Even though your combustion chamber is separated from your water tank, condensation that collects underneath your water tank can drip onto your burners and pilot flame.

    • Constant exposure to moisture will cause your burner assembly to corrode. Significant corrosion damage will prevent your burner assembly from generating a sufficient amount of heat for your tank. This problem can be prevented by periodically removing moisture from your combustion chamber with a rag while your water heater is deactivated.

Bacteria Growth

Your tap water flows through your local water treatment station before it enters your residential plumbing system. However, dangerous and deadly bacteria can manage to stay in tap water up until it's used throughout your home for bathing or washing. Typically, dangerous and deadly bacteria strains are killed when they enter your water heater—if your water heater's thermostat is set at the correct temperature.

One of the most troublesome types of bacteria you need to worry about is Legionella. Legionella is a type of bacteria that can cause Legionnaire disease—which has symptoms such as chest pain, fever, headaches, dry coughing, and several other discomforting health issues. Legionella is killed when it's heated above 140 degrees Fahrenheit, but simply setting your thermostat at or above this temperature won't kill the bacteria if your heating components are damaged or malfunctioning.

Disintegrated Anode Rod

In addition to damaging electric heating elements, minerals can also cause corrosion damage in your water tank and throughout your plumbing system. To prevent this problem from occurring, your water tank contains an anode rod—a shaft of noble metal that neutralizes corrosive minerals. 

However, as your anode rod neutralizes minerals, it disintegrates. After being constantly being exposed to corrosive minerals for several years, your anode rod will disintegrate completely and allow corrosive minerals to attack the lining of your water tank and the rest of your plumbing system.

Luckily, you can replace your anode rod by yourself. To do so, shut off your water heater and locate the large bolt on the lid of your tank. Use a wrench with an extension bar to remove the bolt. As you pull the bolt out of your lid, you'll see your anode rod (or at least what's left of it). If it's extremely thin, covered in calcium deposits, or exposing its core, then replace it with a new one from your local home improvement store.

Inspect your water heater for these issues and determine whether or not you can perform the necessary repairs. If you aren't completely sure that you can perform a certain repair task on your own, then leave it to a plumbing company, like Aaron & Son. By fixing these issues as soon as they become apparent, you can keep your tap water as clean as possible.