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Why is it making funny sounds? Why does it smell so bad?

These questions and more all indicate something may be very wrong with your water heater. Water heater problems can start with a small leak (an obvious sign that the unit is doomed for the landfill), or they can fail in the most spectacular way: flooding. When the interior tank breaks, you can expect quite a bit of water to find its way down your wall (if stored in the attic) or running out from under your garage door! Older water heaters would last for 2-3 decades, but that isn’t the case today. 10-12 years is the industry standard. There may be signs that your heater is about to fail, however. IF you have a gas powered tank water heater and you can hear a slight sizzling at the base, this may be small drops of water dripping on the mechanism near the pilot light. That would be the very first sign that you need to replace your unit.

“Should I call a plumber? Who repairs water heaters?”

A good plumber can check, remove, and install a water heater rather quickly, sparing the consumer the hassle of doing it yourself. When water heaters make loud, strange noises (beyond the simple sound of a the pilot light engaging the burner to re-heat//re-fill the emptied tank), if you notice water pooling at the base or exiting a joint on the top, or if you can tell the water heater isn’t providing showers/baths/sinks with sufficient hot water, then it is time to call a plumber.

“How do I set temperatures and operate my water heater?
Whatis temperature settings ideal for water heaters?”

Some have standardized dials (like more hot, and less hot, vacation) and some have digital readouts. Typically, you do not need to set your hot water controls at the maximum heat settings. This could put children at risk and burn hands unnecessarily. 115-118 is a typical hot water temperature. It is hot, for showers in a cold February, but not too hot. Those living in warmer climates, could even reduce those temperatures in the warmer months. The hotter the setting, the more expensive it is to keep the water heated — that is always something to keep in mind. The vacation setting is ideal for, you guessed it — vacation mode. When nobody is needing hot water,why keep it piping hot? The temperature control is often prominently affixed to the side of the unit — you shouldn’t be able to miss it.

“Why isn’t there any hot water at my house?”

If there is NO hot water available from the heater, then you should check to make sure the pilot light is still lit. That pilot light (on gas units) keeps the unit poised to flare up and heat the water when the level and temperatures are low. This can be solved by using a match to re-ignite if it isn’t visible at the bottom of the tank. The pilot light can go out for a variety of reasons, sudden large wind blast, gas line obstruction, shut off of city services, etc. This is an easy fix if it is your only problem.

“Why does my water heater sound like a _______ or smell like a _______?”

IF your heater sounds like a jet engine or like rocks are clanking around inside, IF the unit smells like burning plastic, or burnt popcorn, IF you detect the smell of gas, like spoiled eggs for instance — then this is worth a call to have a plumber check the unit. The exhaust pipe is supposed to remove the burned vapors out of the house and out of the roofline. The air pressure must be just right to adequately remove all the noxious vapors and an obstruction or air circulation problem will not fully remove the gasses from the home. You will be able to smell an improperly ventilated water heater; it may cause headaches or nausea; it may discolor walls and leave ashes on the top of the unit. These are signs something is terribly wrong and you need to have a pro check out what is happening in your home. Gas leaks aren’t a trivial matter.

“Are gas water heaters or electric water heater units better?”

You may be better off just replacing whatever style unit you currently have, as this won’t require re-wiring or re-plumbing for the alternate energy source. IF you have gas, your cheapest option is to stick with gas and vice-versa. The real choice facing homeowners today is should I go tankless or keep my traditional tank water heater configuration?

“Are tankless units more energy efficient and how much do they cost?”

Great questions. Let’s look at the pro’s and con’s of both systems.

Tankless water heaters do not store the heated water on your property. Instead, they use a flash heating method that heats water as you need it for as long as you need it. That’s right: continuous hot water without limit. You will pay for that water of course, and the gas or electricity to heat it, but it won’t run out!

“Which last longer, tankless or tank water heaters?”
The industry says that tankless water heaters will outlive the standard tank units. While they are more expensive at the point of purchase, the tankless water heater should return the margin of your investment rather quickly. The longer you own the machine, the more savings — many tankless units carry a 20 or 25 year warranty. They require some maintenance to clean out deposits just as their tank counterparts.

The cost of tankless water heaters has come down over the past decade and more plumbers are trained to work on them. The original units would take too long to heat that first batch of water and were subject to isolated “cold spots” — but the technology has come a long way and these are problems any longer.

The cost of operating your tankless unit should be much less than a standard unit as it only heats when you need it to heat your water — thus providing homeowners with a more energy friendly option. Any plumber should be able to give you adequate information on the pro’s and cons of each kind of water heater. We are happy to help — give us a call.

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