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Your water heater works hard behind the scenes, supplying you and your family members with comfortable baths and showers, warm water for scrubbing dishes, and more. Sooner or later, though, even the most reliable water heater appliances might start showing some signs of wear and tear, suggesting that repair or replacement is required.

As a homeowner, it pays to be aware of some of the most common water heater red flags, allowing you to call for an experienced plumber at the first sign of trouble. At Carter’s My Plumber, we are pleased to provide water heater repair in Indianapolis and water heater repair in Greenwood, IN, and are always happy to answer your questions about the water heater repair cost.

Worker Adjusting Temperature Of Water Heater

Common Problems with Water Heater Temperature

It’s obviously an issue when your water heater no longer provides you with consistent hot water. There are a few different factors that could explain why your hot water heater is no longer serving its most basic function, along with potential solutions.

  • You’re only getting cold water. If you’re consistently getting chilly water, then you probably have a faulty heating element, a bad thermostat, or a lack of electrical power. Replace blown fuses and reset the circuit breaker; if that doesn’t fix the problem then you can rule out power issues. Also make sure you double check the thermostat itself, to ensure it’s receiving power. If you have an issue with the thermostat, thermocouple, or burner element, you’ll likely need to call a professional plumber.
  • Your water is warm, but not quite hot enough. A number of factors could account for this, including an undersized water heater tank, crossed hot and cold connections, or (again) issues with the element or the thermostat. A plumber can either make repairs or else advise you on upgrading to a larger unit. (How long does it take to install a water heater? Your plumber can give you an estimate depending on factors such as the location and the type of water heater.)
  • The water is too hot! Most of us want hot water, but that doesn’t mean we want to be scalded when we step into the shower. If your water is too hot, you probably just need to turn down the thermostat. We recommend keeping it at around 120 degrees, this is the agreed-upon high-temperature limit.

Common Causes of Water Heater Leaks

If your water heater tank has sprung a leak, there could be a number of potential causes, with rust and corrosion being the most likely. Some additional factors that can cause water heater leaks include:

  • Faulty temperature and pressure relief valves.
  • Improper water pressure or gas pressure.
  • A valve that has gotten stuck.
  • An overheating unit.
  • Loose bolts for your heating element.
  • Bad gaskets.
  • Issues with the dip tube.
  • Leaks from nearby plumbing connections.

As a homeowner, you can check for any plumbing connections that are visibly loose, tightening them (but not over tightening them) to see if it stops the leak. Also perform a visual inspection of the tank itself, looking for obvious signs of degradation. If the tank has a leak in it, there’s really nothing to do but call your plumber to schedule a new water heater installation.

Other Common Water Heater Problems

There are a few other water heater problems to be aware of, including:

Rust-Colored Water

If you start noting discolored water, it’s likely because of corrosion inside your tank. You may be able to address this issue simply by hiring a plumber to replace the anode rod. If that doesn’t work, it likely means you’re due for a brand new unit.

Unusual Noises

Do you hear odd noises coming from your water tank? It’s likely a result of sediment build-up, which you can address by flushing the unit. If you don’t know how to do this safely, call your plumber and they’ll be happy to help.

No Power Source

If the unit won’t connect properly to a power source, or if you simply can’t ignite the pilot light,  it could be a defect. In this case, it may be appropriate to check the manufacturer warranty. 


How long should your water heater last? It depends on a number of factors, and some units go for 10 or even 15 years without any problems. However, once a water heater passes the six-year milestone, that’s when you enter a higher risk category, as there is a much greater chance that the unit could burst, flooding your home. Or, less dramatically, you could simply run out of hot water, due to one of the issues mentioned above. Having regular maintenance performed can potentially extend the life of your water heater, ensuring plenty of warm water for you and your family. Especially seek maintenance if your unit is cracking or popping.

Should You Have Your Water Heater Repaired or Replaced?

When the hot water heater stops working the way its supposed to, homeowners often agonize over whether they can have it fixed or need to get a whole new one.

Sometimes, the issue with your water heater can be addressed by replacing a particular part, such as the heating element or anode rod. But if the issue is age, or if it involves the tank itself, you’ll likely need to have an entirely new unit installed. In some cases this may actually be a blessing in disguise, as it can allow you to swap an electric water heater for a gas water heater, or a conventional unit for one of the state-of-the-art tankless water heaters that are on the market today. With questions about different types of water heaters, don’t hesitate to ask your trusted, certified plumber. (Ask about the tankless water heater installation cost, too!)

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the most common problem with water heaters?

The most common issues are the basic water leak, faulty heating element, rust/corrosion, and simple old age. A faulty thermostat could also be the issue.

What are the signs of a water heater going bad?

Some of the most common red flags include lukewarm water, intermittent hot water, and discoloration.

What would cause my hot water heater to stop working?

It could be an issue with the heating element or with the power source (e.g., blown fuse or tripped circuit breaker).

What is the typical lifespan of a water heater?

Most water heaters will last 10 years or so, though problems can start as early as six years.

What shortens the life of a water heater?

Sediment build-up that’s left unchecked/unflushed can shorten the lifespan of your unit. Water quality such as hard water can build up mineral deposits in the heating element and tank of the water heater, reducing its efficiency and increasing the risk of damage.

Kelson Carter

Article reviewed by:

Kelson Carter, aka, The Prince of Plumbing

Kelson is a 3rd generation Plumbing Contractor. His family business is located in Greenwood, Indiana, and provides Residential Plumbing Service to the Indianapolis Metro market.

Kelson grew up watching his grandfather and father do plumbing. After graduating high school, Kelson went to Trade School and became a Licensed Master Plumber and Licensed Plumbing Contractor. He is also Certified in Backflow Prevention. He currently owns and operates Carter's My Plumber with his parents.


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