How to fix an American water heaters: common problems and troubleshooting

Water heaters are essential in a home. Nothing is more annoying than having cold water or a unit that is making noises. Let’s take a look at some common issues and how to fix them. 

The first step is to determine your type of heater: electric heater, tankless gas heater, or a gas heater with a tank. You should always read the manual of your system. If you don’t know what you are doing, you shouldn’t touch the system and call a plumber.

Troubleshooting an American water heaters 

1/ Is the unit plugged in?

If you don’t have warm water, you can check if the unit has electricity. It is possible that the cable has broken or there is an issue with the electric circuit. 

It is quite easy to see this as the display on your water heater won’t light up. In most instances, this is an easy fix as you just have to restore power to your unit.

2/ Does the American water heater give an error code?

Modern heaters made by American have advanced electronics and sensors. They can often indicate that there is an issue. By looking up the error code in the manual, you can often see what needs to be replaced or what needs to happen.

 It is possible that turning the device on and off is all that is needed but this is explained further once you look up the error code. Common error codes are that there is an issue with the gas supply or issues with the exhaust. 

These issues should not be taken lightly and a professional should be called as these can lead to dangerous situations. Getting a CO2 meter in your house is also a great idea as water heaters can leak CO2 if there is an issue. This can be dangerous and a meter can alert you of this issue. 

 Electric heaters have fewer components and the issue is often broken heating elements. 

3/ Did you maintain your American system?

Most water heaters need to get cleaned every 2 years. This makes sure that there is no build-up of dirt in the system. Water heaters that burn gas, sometimes leave some residues and this has to be removed for a clean burn.

 Maintaining a tank takes about 45 minutes. If your plumber leaves earlier, he or she probably didn’t do a good job. In some instances, you have to replace the sacrificial rod so that your system keeps working.

4/ Is your system leaking water?

Water heaters can leak water from time to time. Often this is not an issue and just releases some pressure in the tank. It is a safety measure to make sure that your tank doesn’t explode when the pressure gets too high. 

 If it happens often or all the time, you will have to call a plumber. Clean up this water as it might be acidic. Sometimes this can be released into your plumbing system by using a PVC pipe. 

5/ Is your American system properly installed?

Sometimes plumbers use pipes that are not wide enough. This can make it hard for your system to work properly as the gas and water are not being supplied at the right time.

 Your system might have to work too hard, resulting in early failures. Calling the manufacturer of your water heater can provide some insight into your current installation. It is possible that the plumber made a mistake, they are humans after all.

6/ How old is your system?

Water heaters often last 10-15 years. You often get a few years of guarantee. It is possible that there is a manufacturing defect and that the water heater breaks quite fast.

 You often get a free replacement if that is the case. Tankless water heaters are heaters that don’t hold hot water. They have to work harder as they don’t have any reserves. Let’s take a look at some common issues with these below:

7/ Is your chimney blocked?

Modern systems get the air from outside and also exhaust the system through the roof. It is possible that a bird or some dirt blocks the exhausting system. This will stop your water heater as they want to avoid CO2 buildup. Check if your chimney is free to make sure that the water heater can drain the water.

8/ Is your pump and filter working?

Some people use a pump to supply water to the water heater. If the pump is down, your water heater won’t work. Check if everything before the water heater is working properly. 

A dirty filter can release dirt into the water, leading to blockages and this can stop your water heater as well. A lot of people forget to clean their water filters and this can lead to problems.

9/ Is there a problem with your water tank?

Some water heaters have a tank that holds warm water. This is convenient as you get hot water faster. It is often installed for people that use a lot of hot water. 

These systems are more expensive though. They can also break and a crack in a water tank is quite common. It is also possible that the settings on the water heater are wrong and this can result in unstable temperatures. This can be quite annoying when you want to take a hot shower as the temperature can shift. A plumber will have to come and fix this.

9/ Call a plumber

Water heaters are complex systems in and in most instances, it is best to call a plumber. They have measurement devices to see if your water heater is working properly and can troubleshoot to see what is going on. A crack in your water tank or other issues can be found by a plumber. 

In some instances they can replace a part, in other instances, they have to replace the whole water heater. Plumbers can also optimize your system, resulting in savings for you. 

For example, there are a lot of settings on your water heater, and based on information about your household, it is possible to update these. A lot of plumbers don’t bother doing this though. 

Common American water heaters issues:

-Low water pressure

The problem is probably nothing to do with the tank but with your pipes. It is possible that the diameter is not wide enough or that there are too many faucets on your system.

 A plumber will have to come and install new pipes. This can be quite expensive. A pump might help as well but this requires electricity and maintenance. It also takes up space in your house.

-Yellow or brown water

It is possible that your pipes are breaking down or your tank might have an issue. It is best to call a plumber to find the root cause of this problem. If it is not taken care of, it can result in significant damage to your system. It is possible that there is a problem with the city water as well but this is an exceptional situation. Don’t use this water. 

-It takes a long time to get hot water

The distance between your water heater and the faucet might be quite big. It is also possible that the settings of the water heater are not correct or that there is an issue with the flames. 

-You only get hot water for a short period of time

There might be a problem with the settings of your water heater. It is also possible that the capacity of your water heater is too low and that you have to upgrade to a bigger system. 

-Water next to the water tank

The pressure release valve might have broken or there is a pressure issue. It is possible that the tank leaks some water from time to time but if it happens often or there is a lot of water, it is time to call a plumber as a serious issue might be brewing.

-Noisy water tank

There might be air in your system. Often this is not a big issue and your system probably won’t explode but it can be a great idea to call a plumber to make sure that your system doesn’t get damaged. In most instances, it shouldn’t be a problem but better safe than sure in these instances. 

Water heaters are quite complex and it can take some troubleshooting to see what is going on. Replacing a water heater can be expensive so if you are not sure what is going on, you can give your plumber a call. They might be able to assist you on the phone. Checking the manual of your heater is also a great idea.

American Water Heaters is owned by A.O. Smith Corporation. This is a big company that owns other water heater brands. This makes it easier to get access to replacement parts. This can be needed as water heaters can last up to a decade.

Most issues with water heaters can be fixed quite fast. After a decade, you can consider installing a new system as a lot of issues might follow each other in rapid succession. Small parts break over time and it can be more costly to repair all of them than just getting a new water heater.

A lot of plumbers can work on these systems so it should be easy to get it repaired if needed.