Symptoms of a Water Heater That is About to Break in Your Rental Apartment

Written by Apartment Management Magazine on . Posted in Blog

by Sandra Wood

When you own a rental property, tenants rely on you to provide certain basic amenities,
including hot water. Not only is it desirable for showering, but it’s also needed for household
tasks like dishwashing and laundry. To keep renters happy, make sure you know how to
recognize these signs that you may need water heater repair services soon.


1. Water is leaking from the unit.

Whether you’re dealing with occasional drips or a massive puddle of pooling water, this is a
sure sign that something isn’t right with your water heater. Leaking is most common during
heat cycles, so it’s best to observe the source of moisture seepage while the unit running.
The casing typically develops cracks as a result of extended use, but even newer water heaters
have the potential to leak given the right circumstances. As soon as you see water, in any
volume, on the floor around the unit, call in a professional to have it inspected.

2. There’s little to no hot water.

Are tenants consistently reporting they have no hot water at all? A pattern like this suggests
that the unit isn’t warming the water sufficiently enough. Even tepid temperatures fall below
the standard of a well-working heater.

This commonly points to an issue with the heating element, but thermostat issues can be
another possible culprit. Either way, failure of these key components may trigger further
problems that result in the unit completely breaking down.

3. Appearance of water is off putting.

Sometimes the problem won’t be visible at the site of the water heater. Instead, you’ll need to
inspect sink and shower fixtures. When the faucets are running, there are a few characteristics
of the water that might seem off:

 • Cloudy appearance

 • Brown color

 • Presence of particles

Sediment buildup is a common problem in these units, and too much of it can discolor the
water and eventually damage the entire heater. While sometimes a good flushing can resolve
this, the problem may cause irreversible issues that call for a full replacement.

4. Smell and taste of water is unpleasant.

If the appearance is too subtle to notice a difference, tenants may report a problem with the
smell or taste of the water. They’re likely detecting a metallic odor that occurs when the
interior of the unit is starting to crumble.

Not only is the taste disagreeable to most people, but the problem is essentially tainting your
water supply. At this point, there’s really no other choice but to call in a plumbing specialist and
replace your water heater.

5. The heater lets out strange noises.

Unfamiliar sounds are typically a bad sign in any type of machinery, but it’s especially
troublesome when the noise is coming from your building’s water heater. Keep your ears alert
for any of the following types of sounds:

 • Popping

 • Banging

 • Rumbling

 • Crackling

When mineral deposits settle at the bottom of the unit, it can become hard. As the heating
mechanism attempts to warm the water, it may interact with this layer of sediment, leading to
this sounds. Overall, the problem can decrease the efficiency of the unit.

6. There’s rust buildup on the surface.

Rust can infect many components in your building’s plumbing system, including your heater.
When the water is tinted a deep red or brown, it’s likely coming in contact with rust
somewhere along the journey from the source to the faucet.

If you trace the origin of the rust back to the water heater, it’s a sign that the steel is corroding.
When the metal breaks apart, you wind up with leaks. The best option to resolve a rust
problem is to swap out the heater with a brand new one.

7. The unit is more than 15 years old.

Water heaters are not meant to last forever. As a large property owner, it’s your responsibility
to know the age of major appliances like these, so that you can replace them on schedule.

When the unit’s approaching a decade in use, you should start looking for signs of wear to
determine if it’s time. Once it’s been 15 years, the water heater is more than likely reaching the
end of its life.

Tenant retention is important to any housing property owner. Having a reliable, efficient unit is
well worth the water heater replacement cost. If you observe any of these symptoms, get in
touch with a plumbing specialist as soon as possible.

Sandra Wood is the home energy master communications specialist at Allbritten, a professional home energy audit company in Fresno, California.

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