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Is Your Water Heater Whistling At You? 6 Water Heater Warning Signs to Heed

outline of whistle

A wolf whistle from your partner or an attractive stranger can give you a little self-esteem lift for sure.

But when it’s your water heater whistling at you, there is a different message attached.

They also don’t normally clank, bang, leak, rust, cost more energy to do the same job or refuse to produce hot water. So when you start to hear your water heater "talking" to you in these and other ways, it is smart to pay attention!

If your water heater is getting ready to retire, it may alert you with several early warning signs – kind of like a budgetary heads-up, if you will.

Learn about these signs and what they may mean for your water heater's future in this timely spring post.

Modern Water Heater Options That Save Energy

According to Energy Star, water heaters represent one of the priciest components in the average home – second only to heating and cooling for most homeowners.

The typical Ontarian pays around $2,358 per year in energy expenses. Fifteen percent of this goes to heating water in the home – $353 per year.

Here, the type of water heater you select matters in every way, from how much you can save in energy costs annually to how long your new water heater is likely to last. Here is what Energy Star has to say about your savings and benefits for each of these three common types of hot water heaters.

High-efficiency tank water heater

Your fuel choices include oil, gas and electric. You can save 10 to 20 percent on energy costs annually, with a typical lifetime savings of up to $500. This type of water heater can last 8 to 10 years.

Experts agree a tanked hot water heater is generally the best choice for larger households with several simultaneous hot water demands (such as taking a shower and washing dishes at the same time).

High-efficiency tankless water heater

Your fuel choices include gas and electric. You can save 45 to 60 percent on energy costs annually, with a typical lifetime savings of up to $1,800. This type of water heater can last up to 20 years.

Tankless hot water heaters take up little space and are perfect for smaller spaces. Individuals and couples often get by very well with this type of hot water heater.

Heat pump with hot water option

Your fuel choices include electric with heat harvesting, a renewable energy source. You can save up to 65 percent on energy costs annually, with a typical lifetime savings of up to $900. This type of water heater can last up to 10 years.

It is not too common to install a heat pump just to provide hot water. But heat pumps can do it all – heat, air conditioning and hot water – and are a very smart, sustainable choice over the long-term.

6 Early Warning Signs of Water Heater Outage

Even if your hot water heater seems relatively even-tempered thus far, it is wise to learn how a hot water heater will “speak” to you when it is contemplating a major repair or total failure.

1. Your energy bill is increasing but your habits haven’t changed

A less efficient hot water heater will require more energy to do the same amount of work. It can be a bit challenging to isolate the cause of an increasing energy bill, but if you have ruled out other options, the water heater may be the culprit.

We have written a whole article on tips to lower your hot water bill.

2. There is water on or near the hot water heater and you can’t figure out how it got there

Whether the water you see is condensation forming on the tank, dripping water from the valves or standing water on the floor, you never want to ignore this warning sign, which signals that what may now be a trickle might soon become a flood.

The issue becomes especially problematic if the leak comes from the pressure relief valve, which has the potential to turn the tank into a literal in-home rocket ship under the right conditions.

3. The unit emits strange sounds at odd times

One of the most common reasons your water heater might begin to clank, pop, hiss, rumble or vocalize in other ways is when sediment or minerals build up inside the tank. Air pockets can form inside this buildup and these will produce noise as the water heats.

4. You see corrosion on or in the components or the water appears cloudy.

Rust or corrosion on your hot water heater can be dangerous for a number of reasons. Cloudy water can signal the presence of chemicals, minerals, heavy metals and other elements you don’t want touching your skin, let alone going inside your body.

Small areas of rust or corrosion may be fixable, but larger areas generally guarantee a replacement.

5. It is more than 10 years old

Water heaters tend to look sturdy enough from the outside in, but from the inside out constant exposure to water can cause significant deterioration as the years pass.

While there is no doubt some water heaters can last quite a bit longer than 10 years, typically these have had ready access to timely preventative maintenance and perhaps lower usage requirements as well.

6. There is no hot water

This one is a dead giveaway that something is wrong. It is the most obvious sign your hot water heater will ever throw out that it may be in need of a major repair or replacement.

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