When your water heater starts experiencing problems, you'll notice it in the temperature, smell, and color of your water. These symptoms are usually the result of problems that need to be taken care of quickly to avoid leaking or flooding.
Rotten Eggs Smell
An odor of rotten eggs or sulfur that will not go away when you run water, especially hot water, usually points to a problem with your water heater's sacrificial anode rod or water softener. Temporary odors are usually the result of bacteria growing in your tank, but if the smell sticks around, either the water softener or anode rod breaks down magnesium into your water, which releases this smell. Sometimes this problem can be fixed by replacing the rod with one of another material or by making changes to your water softener, but depending on the bacteria buildup, replacing your water heater may be the only way to completely get rid of the smell.
Hot Water Running Out Faster
If you notice your water doesn't stay hot as long as it used to, this could be a result of a buildup of sediment in your tank. As sediment floats to the bottom of your tank over time, the amount of space available for hot water decreases. This can happen if your tank isn't regularly flushed. If your tank isn't damaged, this problem can usually be fixed by having your tank thoroughly flushed.
Brown Water Coming From Taps
Hot water that has an orange or brown tinge to it often comes from rust inside your tank. The sacrificial anode rod is designed to protect the metal inside your tank, but when the inner tank starts to rust, this usually means your tank will need to be replaced. Rusting metal not only discolors your water but also weakens the inner tank, which can cause ruptures and flooding.
Whistling or Squealing Noise
High-pitched sounds coming from your water heater usually mean that there is a hole or valve somewhere that needs to be inspected. For example, if a pressure valve isn't properly set, it can cause a buildup of pressure inside the tank that's too high, causing the whistling sound like a tea kettle on a stove. Likewise, it can happen if there's a hole somewhere in your tank through which hot pressurized air is escaping. It can also come from valves or connections that are simply wearing down and need to be replaced. Since this sound usually comes from pressure-related problems, it's a good idea to have them inspected quickly, as high pressure can lead to the tank bursting or starting to leak.
Contact a water heater repair service for more information.