Do water heaters need to be inspected?

tank water heater in a corner

Inspection to keep your system at its best

When you read that title, you may have said to yourself, “Do water heaters need servicing?” in a curious and surprised tone.  You wouldn’t be the first or only homeowner to have asked that question, most of them ask it out loud, much less would they have any idea that a water heater inspection is something they should be doing.

As a homeowner, you know you have responsibilities beyond paying the mortgage, insurance, taxes, and utilities, right?  There is keeping the house clean and the yard clean and trimmed, changing the HVAC filter monthly, replacing batteries in the smoke alarm monthly, and inspecting the roof and the plumbing from time to time, and all those small but important things. Do you perform or have a water heater inspection done?

Probably not. If you’re like most homeowners, you may not even realize that it is something you can and should be doing. You’re getting plenty of hot water so why would you do a water heater inspection? Our answer to that question is: So, you can keep getting hot water from it and catch any problems before they become a problem.

Maybe you’re asking, “How do I get my water heater inspected?”, and we’ve got a water heater inspection checklist for you here.  Or you can call a professional plumber to do an inspection, we recommend twice a year, or at least once a year. Instead of waiting for water heater problems come about, be proactive with the following simple inspection steps. This will ensure your water heater is operating correctly, efficiently, and safe:

  1. Is the hot water supply consistent? If the hot water flow unexpectedly drops, the burner could burn out or the tank may have sediment build-up in the bottom.  
  2. Are there strange sounds coming from the water heater? Sounds of water boiling, boiling, or gurgling coming from the water heater typically indicate sediment build-up in the tanks.
  3. Are there scorch marks at or near the water heater base? This usually indicates a backdraft, which could mean that carbon monoxide is being released. This is beyond homeowner DIY – call your plumber immediately.
  4. Is the water heater properly ventilated? Make certain the draft hood is secure above the tank, with the flue connected at each joint with at least 3 screws each. If the flue passes through to a chimney, make certain it is properly lined and well connected. This keeps that carbon monoxide from coming back inside the home. 
  5. Is the drain pan properly placed under the water heater? 
  6. Are there any drips or leaks coming from any of the pipes?  
  7. Are there any combustible materials nearby? 

How do you check an electric hot water heater?

The steps we just listed pertain to electric or gas water heaters.  With an electric unit, the following steps will guide you through checking the heating element. You’ll need a multimeter (they are inexpensive at any auto parts or hardware store) and a screwdriver.

  • Turn the breaker to the water heater off.
  • Remove the access panels, then any insulation and safety cover.
  • There should be two wires at the top above the red reset button.
  • These are the 120-volt lines that come from the breaker.
  • Electric water heaters need 240 volts, and this is where you must use the multimeter to check the voltage coming into the unit.
  • Set the multimeter dial on RX1K.
  • Remove one wire from the element of the water heater.
  • Place the meter probes on the element screws.
  • If there is no movement from the meter needle, the element is not working.  
  • If the water heater cuts randomly or the water is too hot, it could be the element that is grounded.

The easier way to do this, and the safest way, is to hire a plumber for an official water heater inspection. This will cost you a few dollars, but it can also save you from the expense and trouble of having a new water heater installed.

How do you know a water heater is going bad?

  • Check the Power for Issues: If you’re not getting hot water, it could be your water heater has died, but it may also be as simple as the breaker has tripped for an electric water heater, or the pilot light is out for a gas unit. A quick water heater inspection of whichever power source is the first thing to do before assuming you need a new water heater.
  • Check the Water: If the water is coming out of the faucet rusty, your water heater is about to quit working. Other indicators would be muddy water, or the water tanks are having a lot of sediment in the bottom. You can flush this out by attaching a water hose to the drain bib and turn the water heater off. As the water drains and performs a water heater inspection tank by watching the contents coming out with the water. If there is a metallic taste to the water, that would be another indicator your water heater is about to quit.
  • Tell Tale Noises: If you are hearing strange noises and sounds coming from the water heater, like bubbling, burping, gurgling, loud cracks and pops, the heating elements are probably covered with sediment and must work harder to heat the water.  The above draining method could help, or it may be time to buy a new water heater.
  • Address Any Water Leaks: Do a water heater inspection of sorts around the exterior and if you see any water leaking around the water heater, turn the electricity or gas to the water heater, and order a new unit.
tankless water heater system

Can I replace my water heater myself?

So, if your water heater has gone out or the water heater failed inspection, you need to get a new unit. Yes, if you have a good amount of basic electric/gas/water connection knowledge, you could do your owner water heater installation, even a water heater inspection.

However, depending on where you live, there may govern water heater inspection requirements. What this means, the local governing body, aka, the city or county, may require a permit do replace a water heater. They will also turn the water off until the installation job complete and do a water heater inspection. A licensed plumber will know these steps, including if they need a permit before removing the old water heater and installing a new water heater.

Any homeowner takes serious responsibility for the monthly financial duties, but it is those physical duties that we sometimes overlook, or maybe don’t even realize they should be done, like performing a water heater inspection.  Creating a reminder on your cell phone is one of the easiest things to do, and well worth the effort. 

For your water heater inspection in Chattanooga, TN, call 423-718-7342 today! Chattanooga Water Heater Co. is always available to assist you!