Common Hot Water Heater Problems

How to solve problems when your heater produces milky and rusty hot water

Common hot water heater problems that are related to discolored water like brown, black, milky or rusty color are described below with provided solution.

If you have an old, poor quality water heater with a storage tank lining that is falling apart, you can blame your unit or manufacturer. Today's manufacturer are designing and constructing tanks with a high quality glass or porcelain coating so it is tough for water to penetrate through.

But you will say: I have rusty hot water!

The cause and solution for rusty hot water

Rust in the heater is not necessarily from metal tank corrosion; it might be result of the non-toxic iron reducing bacteria that can be found in places like water well, soil or piping system. Soluble iron in the water is actually food for bacteria and the result of that process is rusty hot water.

Presence of the bacteria will affect water heater anode rod, so regular check-up and maintenance is recommended.

If the potable water, used for heating, has increased level of manganese or iron, little or no dissolved oxygen and temperature below 138 F, bacteria will sustain. It will become even worse if you are using softeners (for hard water problem), well water and if water is subjected to long periods of no movement.

As with rotten egg smell that is again caused because of the bacteria presence, the solution is very simple, chlorination of the system. Follow the manufacturer's guide for the treatment. You might want to repeat the process if the plumbing system is heavily infected.

Chlorination process

Chlorination described below is the Solution for these hot water heater problems:

  • Turn off gas and/or electric supply and cold water

  • Drain all the water from the tank

  • Remove anode rod and close the drain valve

  • Use one gallon of chlorine bleach for every 25 gallon of tank capacity

  • Bring the anode back

  • Refill the system

  • Draw the chlorinated water to every single tap in your home. Do not forget dishwasher and washing machine.

  • Let it stay for one hour.

  • Drain the tank again.

  • Close the drain and refill the tank.

  • Continue flushing until water is clear and without chlorine odor. Don't forget plumbing pipes.

  • Run the heater using instructions found in the manual.

Another reason for rusty hot water might come from sand, mud and clay sediments that will enter the heater through the well systems, major water main breaks and repairs or when new houses are built and deposits in the plumbing.

Over the years of work and thousands of gallons that pass the system, water tank heaters rust and other particles will collect also at the bottom of the tank.

Solution for all these conditions is to drain and flush the heater's tank.

Note: Warranty is not related to this kind of hot water heater problems.

Milky or Cloudy Water

Milky or cloudy water doesn't have to be a problem related to a heater, as it might occur in cold water lines as well. You can experience discolored water with old units and recently installed also.

There are few factors that might be involved in water color change and majority of them are related to the home plumbing or city's piping system.

Gases such as oxygen, carbon dioxide, chlorine and other soluble ingredients when released from heating water due to pressure increase will make the water appear milky.

Additional air might be present at the city's pumping stations, when the utility company switch the well source, due to aerators at faucets, by low pressure that does not allow gases and oxygen to dissolve properly or when the incoming water temperature changes so it becomes warmer and causes the air to expand.

Solution is to allow water to stand for several minutes so dissolved gases in a form of small bubbles can separate and make the water clear.

If it is persistent and it happens often, you can either reduce it with aerated faucets or simply call water utility company.


Related Articles

water heaters

You May Like