Hot Water Heater Replacement – How to Find Out If Your Water Heater Is Rusty

If you have rusty water, it could mean that sediment is building up in the tank. Draining several buckets of water and flushing the hoses can help, but if you’re still getting rusty water, it’s time to consider replacing your heater.

Hot Water Heater

Rumbling noises from the heater are another sign that it’s time to replace it. These are caused by sediment hardening and banging against the bottom of the tank. Visit for more information.

If your water heater isn’t producing hot water, a broken element may be to blame. However, diagnosing the problem can be difficult without the proper tools and knowledge. Luckily, there are some basic diagnostic tests you can do to find out if the heating element is broken or not.

The easiest way to check your heating element is to turn off power to the water heater. This is usually done by shutting off the circuit breaker that powers it. You can usually find the breaker in your home’s central breaker box, which is typically located in your garage or basement.

Once you’ve turned off the power to your water heater, wait a few hours to ensure that all of the water inside of it is cool. Then, open a faucet to test the water temperature. If the water is still warm or hot, your new element is working properly. If the water is cold or lukewarm, you probably need to replace your element.

To start, you’ll need to remove the access cover panel and insulation on your water heater tank. This will expose the heating element terminal block, which is often a rectangular piece with two screws that have electrical wires connected to it. Use a screwdriver to loosen the two screws and disconnect the wires. Next, set your multimeter to the ohms setting and connect the red probe to one of the screws on the heating element and the black probe to the other screw. A functioning heating element will register a low resistance reading on your multimeter, while a broken one will read high or not register any current at all.


Thermostats are a water heater’s most important part, and they play an integral role in the hot water process. If your water heater is acting up, it could be due to a defective thermostat or heating element. You can test the heating element by shutting off power to the unit, removing the appropriate access panel, moving any insulation out of the way and detaching the power wires from the elements. Then, use a multimeter to measure for continuity (the electrical path present) across the terminals. If you get a reading of 1, the element is defective and needs to be replaced.

A faulty thermostat can also cause issues, such as allowing water to get too cold before turning on or indicating an inaccurate temperature setting. Checking for continuity with the multimeter can help you determine if it’s time to replace the thermostat or reset the circuit breaker.

Using the multimeter, touch one of its leads to the upper thermostat’s reset terminal and the second lead to the left-side thermostat terminal. The meter display should indicate near zero Ohms of resistance if the thermostat has continuity. Repeat this process with the lower thermostat’s terminals to make sure they’re working as well.

If you find that the thermostats are not functioning properly, shut off power to the unit by resetting the circuit breaker and press the reset button on the high-temperature cutoff switch located above the upper thermostat. It may be a good idea to purchase replacement parts from a home improvement store. Thermostats are often interchangeable, but it’s a good idea to take the old thermostat with you when shopping for a new one to make sure you’re purchasing the same model and model number. Once the new thermostat is installed, reattach the power wires and reconnect the plastic safety panel and access door.

Anode Rod

Anode rods are made of magnesium, aluminum or zinc coated around a steel core. They connect to the top of the tank and extend into the water. Essentially, they absorb the corrosive properties of your water from the metal walls of the tank. This saves the tank from rust and corrosion which could lead to leaks. However, the anode rod will eventually erode and must be replaced. Typically, this happens after three or four years.

You can usually locate the anode rod at the nipple near your hot water outlet, or it may be on top of the tank in a separate opening. You can purchase anode rods at most hardware stores, and you might be able to find them online. They cost about $50. You can also ask your plumber to replace the anode rod.

To loosen the rod, shut off your water heater and drain several gallons of water. You should be able to see a six-sided screw head on the top of the water heater, or it may be covered with a plastic cap. Spray a little lubricant, such as WD-40, over the head to loosen it. It will likely be stuck in place by corrosion, so have a helper hold the rod while you unscrew it.

The type of anode rod that you select depends on your home’s water quality, such as its acidity and PH level. Magnesium anode rods are best for homes with soft water, while aluminum anode rods are good for homes with hard water and a high PH level. Zinc anode rods work well if you have a sulfurous odor in your home’s water. You should also check your anode rod frequently, especially if you have a water softener.

Dip Tube

If you’re dealing with a tank-style hot water heater, the dip tube is responsible for sending cool water from your home’s water supply back down to the bottom of the tank so it can be reheated by the lower element. Sometimes, this tube can wear out or spring a leak. If this happens, cold water will mix with the hot water and you’ll have less hot water to use. Fortunately, replacing this part doesn’t have to cost too much.

Another component that can wear out or spring a leak is the sacrificial anode rod, which is suspended in the water tank to help retard corrosion. Typically made of magnesium or aluminum with a steel core, these rods can last up to five years before needing replacement. Changing the anode rod should be done on a regular basis to ensure it will continue to protect the tank from erosion.

A gas water heater also has a temperature pressure relief valve, which prevents the water heater from overheating. It’s important to test this valve regularly, as it can become worn out over time. Generally, you can simply lift or lower the handle to relieve the excess pressure in the valve.

If you’re a homeowner who wants to replace their own hot water heater, the first step is removing the old one. This is a fairly heavy, cumbersome task and can be difficult for homeowners without the proper tools. It’s best to have a friend or neighbor assist you, as well as rent an appliance dolly to get the old tank down and the new one up.

Pressure Valve

The water heater’s pressure valve (or temperature and pressure relief valve) is an essential safety feature that keeps the tank from bursting. When heat and pressure levels rise too high, the valve opens through an auxiliary route (a copper or flex line that’s regionally code dependent) to escape from the top of the water heater and relieve the buildup of pressure.

The pressure valve operates based on the force acting against the valve seat, opening when upstream pressure increases beyond a pre-set limit. When the valve opens, it releases a large amount of steam or water to reduce the pressure and prevent the potential damage caused by a tank rupture.

As the steam or water exits the discharge pipe, it creates a vacuum that draws in air through the venting line connected to the valve. This air will fill the void created by the discharge line and create a balance of pressures between the tank and the water lines in the home. The venting line is then closed, the pressure equalized, and the temperature set to the proper level.

Most water heaters have a float that’s attached to the pressure valve. The float is held up by an inner mechanism with a reduced-area throat that limits the size of the flow. The inner mechanism also has a spring that’s tensioned to open the valve. A screw on the top of the pressure reducing valve allows you to increase or decrease the tension in the spring, increasing or decreasing the amount of pressure that can be relieved by the valve. Keeping the pressure regulated in this manner helps to protect your home’s water pipes and fixtures from excessive stress and strain.