5 Warning Signs Your Water Heater is Failing

Learn about the top 5 warning signs that your water heater is failing and what you can do about it from a licensed plumber with years of experience.

5 Warning Signs Your Water Heater is Failing

As a licensed plumber with years of experience, I have encountered numerous water heater issues. One of the most common problems that homeowners face is a failing water heater. It's not always easy to tell when your water heater is on its last legs, but there are some telltale signs that you should be aware of. In this article, I will discuss the top 5 warning signs that your water heater is failing and what you can do about it.


If you start to hear strange noises coming from your water heater, it could be a sign that the unit is starting to fail.

These noises can range from pops and knocks to dull rumbling sounds. Most often, these noises are caused by a build-up of sediment at the bottom of the tank. When sediment builds up, it can cause the unit to overheat and eventually fail.

Cloudy or Rusty Water

Another common sign of a failing water heater is cloudy or rusty water. Water heater tanks have a coating that helps slow down corrosion, but this coating doesn't last forever.

Once it starts to wear thin, rust can quickly form. If you notice cloudy or rusty water coming from your faucets, it's a good indication that your water heater is failing. You may also hear a clicking or gurgling sound when the heater is on, which could mean that the tank is filling up with sediment.

Inconsistent Water Temperature

If you find that you're not getting as much hot water as you used to, it could be a sign that your water heater is failing. Inside every water heater is a component called an anodic rod, also known as a "sacrificial" rod.

This rod is designed to wear out and rust faster than the tank itself, protecting the tank from corrosion. If your water heater isn't working as it should, you may notice inconsistent water temperatures. The inconsistent temperature of the water could indicate a problem with the thermostat, but it could also be a sign of a bigger issue with the heating element. If you find that your water doesn't stay warm for very long, it may simply mean that you need a larger tank. However, if uneven heating is still a problem, it's best to have a licensed plumber inspect the situation more thoroughly.

Low Water Pressure

While there are other factors that can affect water pressure, if you notice that the pressure is lower than normal when using warm or hot water, it's likely due to a build-up in your water heater.

Over time, sediment can accumulate inside the tank, causing blockages and decreased flow. To fix this issue, you can call a plumber to clean the supply lines or replace the pipes. If you have a newer model of water heater, they may try to clean and rinse the sediment from the pipes first to see if that solves the problem.

Strange Smells

If your water heater starts to emit strange smells, it's definitely a sign that something is wrong. The smell of rotten eggs is often an indication that your water heater is not functioning properly.

This smell is caused by bacteria in the tank reacting with the anodic rod. If you notice this smell, it's important to have your water heater serviced as soon as possible. Beyond these obvious signs, there are other warning signs that your water heater may be failing. As a licensed plumber, I offer installation services for both traditional tank-type water heaters and tankless models. In both cases, regular maintenance and cleaning can help improve the efficiency of your water heater. If your water heater stops working completely, it can cause a lot of damage to your home.

The tank will continue to pump water until the main water supply valve is closed, resulting in a flooded living space. To avoid this, it's important to pay attention to the warning signs and address any issues with your water heater as soon as possible.


Your water heater may not be something you think about often, but it's an important appliance in your home. Over time, mineral deposits in the water can settle at the bottom of the tank, causing issues with your water heater. By paying attention to the signs that your water heater is failing, you can avoid costly repairs and potential damage to your home.

If you notice any of these signs, don't hesitate to call a licensed plumber for assistance.

Randy Strombach
Randy Strombach

Plumbing Contractor, father to three great kids and husband to an amazing wife