What happens when a water heater goes bad

If you’ve owned the same water heater for several years, you’ll eventually need occasional repairs. Like many homeowners, you might wonder how long you have until your heater’s lifespan starts running out. What happens when a water heater goes bad?

At Iron Mountain Plumbing, our crew has repaired and replaced countless water heaters in St. George, Utah. As a result, we have extensive knowledge about when a water heater is on its last leg. Dive into our industry experience below to determine when you should replace your water heater at home. 

Not Enough Hot Water

When taking a shower or running a nice, hot bath, you’ll occasionally deal with your water heater running out of hot water. Few experiences will disappoint you like stepping into a lukewarm stream of water when you expected piping hot water. Sometimes, this happens when you run your dishwasher or washing machine before running your shower.

When the water temperature constantly disappoints, however, it can indicate failing heating elements and other expensive repairs. A professional technician can determine whether the heater needs a simple repair or complete replacement. 

Inconsistent Temperatures

Fluctuating water temperatures are another sign that your water heater might need service or replacement soon. Well-maintained, functional heaters can keep a consistent temperature throughout your hot-water use. Sudden spikes or dips in the temperature are warning signs you shouldn’t ignore.

The water may start off feeling comfortable, but you suddenly feel chilled as the temperature tapers down. Alternately, it may quickly rise to scalding hot temperatures, causing you to scramble out of dodge.

If no one flushes a toilet and you didn’t change the faucet setting, you could have a malfunctioning heater on your hands.  


Several plumbing appliances will spring a leak now and again. However, your water heater shouldn’t develop leaks often. Corrosion and rust are the main reasons a water heater starts leaking.

Corrosion can also come with other symptoms, like discolored water. As the rust makes contact with the water, it will show a brownish or orange color as it flows through the faucets. A corroded water heater almost always requires replacement services. 

Poor Water Pressure

Has your water pressure weakened despite you not making any changes? If so, your water heater might have extensive hard-water buildup inside the tank, lines, and valves. Hard water contains calcium, magnesium, and other substances derived from groundwater sources.

These minerals separate from the water while in the tank. As they separate, they become attached to the tank material, which leaves less room for the water. This also affects how quickly water can flow out of the tank.

Although flushing services can resolve these issues, you can also look into tankless water heaters. These models provide a more renewable and eco-friendly way to heat water for your household.  

Constant Repairs

What happens when a water heater goes bad? You schedule countless repairs that chip away at your bank account! Like most appliances, water heaters require more repair services as they age.

The average lifespan of a water heater is 15 years. A well-maintained heater might last 20 or more years. Eventually, the repair costs add up, making replacement a more budget-friendly option. 

Increasing Energy Bills

As minerals build up in your water tank and connected components, your energy bills will increase. Your water heater becomes less efficient with age, working harder to achieve the same results. As the heater struggles to evenly heat the water, it uses more energy and drives up your monthly bills.  

Smelly Water

Although hot water brings convenience, cleanliness, and comfort to your home, it also creates the perfect environment for certain bacteria to flourish. The inside of the tank is dark, wet, and warm, offering an excellent habitat for bacteria to reproduce.

Some of these bacteria can give your hot water an unpleasant smell. Even after flushing and sanitizing the tank, the smell may linger. When this happens, you need to replace your old, smelly tank with a clean, new one. 

Strange Noises

Water heaters should remain quiet throughout their normal functions. But as their components become loose or damaged, they may start making strange noises. You might hear banging, clanging, and other odd sounds coming from the heater.

Sometimes technicians can repair the problematic component. Other times, they’ll suggest replacement services when the component in question comes with a sky-high price tag. 

What Happens When a Water Heater Goes Bad: Dangerous Consequences

When a water heater goes bad, it can be noisy or make your showers and baths a struggle. However, it can also pose a serious threat to you and your family. Discover what can happen when a malfunctioning water heater continues working below.  

Injury During Bathing

Since faulty water heaters can cause major temperature fluctuations in the water, you could run the risk of injuries from scalding. A person can sustain a third-degree burn when exposed to temperatures of 150 degrees for as few as three seconds. 

Water Contamination

Loose valves can allow outside contaminants to infiltrate your water supply. A corroded tank can also have negative health consequences. These circumstances may make your water unsafe to drink. 


A malfunctioning water heater may have issues with gas ventilation. Improper ventilation can lead to back-drafting. Backdrafting occurs when gas redirects into your home or other areas on your property. 


Finally, a faulty water heater can explode, causing severe property damage and injuries. Problems like corroded valves, electrical shorts, and fractured gas elements can all lead to a devastating explosion. Contacting our technicians for prompt service can save lives and homes. 

Explore Replacement and Installation Solutions with Iron Mountain Plumbing

What happens when a water heater goes bad? The results range from mild annoyances to serious hazards. At Iron Mountain Plumbing, our team can help you avoid those hazards with maintenance, repair, and installation services for your water heater. Consider a tankless water heater to avoid many common issues altogether. Contact us at (435) 500-2576 to learn more. 

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