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Common Water Heater Issues

Tank style water heaters use an insulated storage tank to store water. These water heaters are generally very reliable lasting 10 years or more but occasionally they do have problems.

These problems can include:

  • No hot water
  • Inadequate hot water
  • Rust colored water
  • Rotten egg odor
  • Low rumbling or popping noise
  • Higher pitched whining
  • Water leaking around base of heater

Before any troubleshooting is done on the water heater, make sure to prepare safely for the job by doing the following:

  • Turn off power to an electric water heater. Do this by turning off the circuit breaker or fuse powering the heater.
  • Turn the ga pilot control valve to “pilot” setting.
  • Shut off water supply to water heater.

Let’s take a look at each problem and what possible causes and repairs:

No Hot Water

Possible Causes

  • Faulty gas pilot
  • Faulty gas thermocouple
  • Faulty gas pilot control valve

Inadequate Hot Water

Possible Causes

  • Unit is undersized for water heating demands
  • Broken or damaged dip tube allowing cold and hot water to mix in tank
  • Faulty plumbing installation has crossed cold and hot water connections
  • Gas supply or control problems

Possible Repairs

  • Make sure water heater is not being overtaxed by hot water supply demands. The water heater should have 75% of its capacity as hot water (e.g., a 40 gallon WH should be used for a demand of 30 gallons).
  • Undo cold water inlet and pipe nipple and remove dip tube. Check condition and replace if required.
  • Check for crossed connection by turning off water supply to water heater. Open a hot water faucet. If there is water flow, then their is a crossed connection somewhere. Check for a hot water line connected to a cold water connection on the water heater or appliances such as washer, dishwasher, faucet or shower valves.
  • Check for proper flame from burner. A natural gas flame should be a bright blue with the tip of the flame having just a tinge of yellow. A propane flame should have a bluish green flame with a tinge of yellow at the tip.

Possible Repairs

  • Check gas pilot flame and pilot operation.
  • Re-tighten, reposition or replace the gas thermocouple.
  • Replace the gas pilot control valve.

Rust Colored Water

Possible Causes

  • Corrosion occurring inside glass lined tank
  • Sacrificial rodbis failing (anode rods dissolve slowly to prevent rusting in the tank)

Possible Repairs

  • Replace sacrificial anode rod with magnesium anode rod. Anode rods are available from Duncan Plumbing Solutions or

Rotten Egg Smell

Possible Causes

  • Bacteria in the tank sediment fed from hydrogen gas created from decay of sacrificial anode

Possible Repairs


  • Flush Water Heater (Contact Duncan Plumbing Solutions for assistance)
  • Using a hydrogen peroxide solution of 2 pints 3% peroxide to 40 gallons of water, treat tank and run some of the solution into water lines.
  • Let peroxide solution set in tank and pipes for 2 hours. Solution is not toxic and requires no rinsing.
  • If problem persists, replace anode with a zinc-alloy anode.
  • If problem still remains, replace water heater with a plastic lined tank type.

Possible Causes

  • Noise heard is sound of boiling water. Excessive buildup of sediment in bottom of tank is causing overheating of tank bottom and boiling of water to occur.

Possible Repairs

  • Remove sediment by flushing water heater (Contact Duncan Plumbing Solutions for assistance)

Water Leak Around Base of Heater

Possible Causes

  • Faulty T&P (temp & pressure) relief valve (contact Duncan Plumbing Solutions to install a new T&P valve)
  • T&P valve leak due to excessive pressure, overheating or stuck
  • Leak from overhead or nearby plumbing connection
  • Leaking water tank (corrosion likely)

Possible Repairs

  • Place bucket under overflow pipe. Open and flush T&P valve clear of debris. If leak remains from valve, replace valve.
  • Reduce thermostat setting to prevent tank overheating and opening T&P relief valve.
  • Inspect bottom of tank by looking through combustion chamber. If water marks or heavy rusting is noticed or if water is noticed setting in combustion chamber bottom, then the water heater needs to be replaced.

Duncan Plumbing Solutions | Phone: 972-937-0040 | info@duncanplumbingsolutions.com | www.duncanplumbingsolutions.com | Cedar Hill Plumber 75104 | Duncanville Plumber 75116 | Desoto Plumber 75115 | Mansfield Plumber 76063 | Waxahachie Plumber 75165 |Master License # M-39624



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