What Are The Signs Of A Busted Water Heater (Tank / Tankless)

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Tank as well as tankless water heaters eventually wear out after continuous use and give rise to various problems. Some of these issues may go unnoticed by the user, but there are several signs that indicate that your water heater needs repair or replacement. These factors include water leaking of the heater unit, discoloration of the water, colder water temperature, inconsistent heating of water, and a leaking or damaged pressure relief valve.

Most of the energy in US households is spent on space heating and water heating.

Although tankless water heaters have seen an increase in sales in recent years, conventional storage type water heaters are still the most preferred water heating devices in the country.

With 18 % of a home’s total energy being spent on water heating, it is important to keep these devices in top conditions.

Although reliable, water heaters, like all other devices are subject to damages. One must keep an eye out for signs of such damage to ensure the proper operation of the heater and avoid any harm to the human body.

Signs of a Busted Water Heater

Now that we know why it is important to look out for any damages in the water heater, let us now take a look at look at the various signs of an unhealthy water heater.

What Are The Signs Of A Busted Water Heater (Tank _ Tankless)

1. Leaking water

A tankless water heater rarely ever has this problem. However, in case such an event occurs, contact a trained professional immediately to get your water heater fixed.

Water leaking from a tankless heater is usually caused by loose fittings or improper connections. Although not quite dangerous, if unattended this could damage your water heater permanently.

Unlike a tankless water heater, if a storage-tank water heater starts leaking, it could lead to damages that require expensive repairs.

You might have to change the flooring and carpets apart from spending a lot on the heater itself. If left ignored, a leaking water heater could also result in the flooding of your house.

Leaking is the sign of a broken water heater and in most cases, the only way to fix it is to replace the heater.

2. Cloudy/Rusty water

If the water from your water heater is coming out discolored, then it usually means that there is an excessive sediment build-up in the water heater.

With a tankless water heater, if regular maintenance is not being done, minerals could accumulate over time and affect the performance of the heater.

If you notice cloudy water coming out of any of the hot water fixture, it is high time that you flush your tankless water heater.

If left unattended for very long, these sediments could cause permanent damage to the tankless heater.

Similarly, in a conventional storage-tank water heater, rusty or cloudy water coming out of any hot water pipes is an indication of a corroded tank and it will not be much time until your tank starts leaking.

Replacement of the tank may be necessary in this case.

3. Warm or cold water

Sometimes water from your water heater can be lukewarm or completely cold. This can occur in both tank and tankless water heaters but because of two completely different reasons.

In tankless water heaters, the water comes out warm due to excessive pressure requirements that are beyond the abilities of the heater.

This can be addressed by adjusting the heater’s hot and cold valves. It is recommended that you call a plumber to fix this problem.

In a tank-style water heater, the same problem is usually caused due to a damaged heating element. This is commonly a direct result of excessive sediments in the heater.

These mineral deposits cause the heating element to overwork until it finally fails.

Hence, lukewarm water from a storage tank heater is usually a sign of excessive sediment build-up. This could eventually result in the user having to replace the tank.

4. Irregular noises

Unusual noises other than the normal sound of operation from the water heater are a dead giveaway of water heater failure.

Sometimes, knocking and creaking sounds may arise from the heater.

These noises are usually caused due to excessive sedimentation on the heater surface. When the air pockets in these sediment build-ups are heated along with the water, they give rise to such odd sounds.

Normally, once such sounds start coming out of the heater, it is better to replace the storage tank than to wait until the tank starts leaking, resulting in an expensive repair.

For tankless heaters, if flushing the heater does not fix this problem consider replacing the heater unit.

If fixing the heater does not address the problem, there could be some other serious issue with the heater unit. The user must immediately contact an experienced professional in such cases.

5. Leaking pressure relief valve

A pressure relief valve is used to let out any excessive pressure build-up in the heater.

A failing pressure relief valve is caused by mineral build-up and corrosion, or due to freezing of the valve. This issue cannot be always fixed by simply replacing the valve.

A leaking or damaged pressure relief valve is a sign that the water heater is in a dangerous condition.

It a pressure relief valve starts leaking, it means that there is an excessive pressure build-up or overheating in the heater.

If your water heater reaches this condition, immediately contact a plumber. If this problem is not dealt with, your water heater might explode causing bodily harm and extensive damages to your home.

6. Inconsistent heating

There may be times when it seems like your water heater is working perfectly and the next moment the water coming out of the heater is not even remotely hot enough.

This is commonly caused due to issues with the electrical supply. If the standby light of the heater is not lit when such an issue occurs, it usually means that the electrical requirements of the heater are not met.

Usually, inconsistent water heating is a result of insufficient amp capacity.

However, if this is not the case, there might be damages in the heater that may require repair or even replacement. Call a plumber if such an event occurs.


Regardless of the type, water heaters have similar signs of internal damage. Some of these signs may be a dead giveaway to some obvious issue with the heater.

However, there are also minute issues that go unnoticed by the user which could later develop into major damages.

One of the most common causes of the deterioration of water heaters is a lime-scale build-up.

This is an easily avoidable risk with proper and regular maintenance of the heater.

Although some issues may arise that are not in the control of the user, it is best to avoid those that can be controlled.

ReviewsWorthy Team

Our team consists of enthusiastic and passionate people from different fields and experience. Some are geeks and spend most of their time among gadgets while others love nature and are always on the move! We spend 10s of hours researching and writing on each topic. The articles are then quality checked by our editors. View our "About us" section for more details about process and team.

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