My Hot Water Heater Has a Rusted Bottom – Should I Be Concerned?

Damaged element on old hot water heater

A hot water heater with a rusted bottom is definitely a cause for concern. Your water heater is an important component of your home, providing the hot water you need for showers, dishes, cooking, and cleaning.

Notice corrosion on your water heater? Understanding why it’s there and what you can do about it can help you plan for the future and avoid cold water.

Rust on Bottom of Water Heater: Why?

Sediment buildup is the most common cause for corrosion at the bottom of a water heater. When sediment builds up over time, it accumulates in the bottom of the tank and settles while eating away at the metal on your water heater.

When the tank gets heated, all the minerals go to the bottom while the water exits through the top and goes through the pipes. The best way to prevent sediment build up is to flush your water tank at least once per year. Be sure you understand how to properly do this and follow the steps outlined so you don’t permanently damage your tank.

Another cause of a rusty water heater is age. The older the water heater, the more prone it is to rusting. As the tank undergoes continuous heating and cooling cycles, it experiences stress, weakening its resistance to corrosion.

Furthermore, the type and quality of water in your area can play a role. Hard water, containing high levels of minerals like calcium and magnesium, exacerbates sediment buildup and accelerates rust formation.

Rusty Water Heater on Top

If you see water heater rust on the top of the tank, there are a handful of reasons why this might be. The most common reason is a leak somewhere on the top. Most of your plumbing is above the tank so there’s likely a lot of unions where water could be leaking from.

Thankfully, this is a minor issue that you should be able to figure out by turning the water on to your tank and locating the leak.

Another more serious issue could be a leak from somewhere else in your home that’s causing rust to form on the top of the tank. You’ll want to check the area all around to make sure the water isn’t coming from somewhere else.

Water Heater Rust and Brown Water

One of the most alarming consequences of a rusty water heater is the presence of brown or discolored water. The rust particles flake off from the bottom or top of the tank and mix with the water supply.

This is dangerous because you may not notice it right away and you could consume rusty water in your cooking as well as things like coffee and drink mixes. It can also stain clothes and fixtures throughout the house.

If you have rusty water, it usually means the metal from your water heater is flaking on the inside so you’ll likely need to replace it.

Is It Safe to Use a Rusty Water Heater?

If you have a hot water heater with a rusted bottom or top, it’s not safe to continue using it or ignoring the problem.

The rust can cause leaks, leading to water damage to your home and potentially damaging the heater irreparably. Moreover, the rusted components may release harmful particles into the water supply, impacting your health.

Can You Remove Rust From a Water Heater?

If you’re dealing with minor surface rust as the result of an exterior factor, you can remove the rust yourself by shutting off the water heater, flushing it, and then trying to brush away the rust.

You’ll want to install a new anode rod as well to prevent future rust issues.

Maybe It’s Time to Replace Your Water Heater

It’s important that you don’t simply ignore the problem and expect to go away. In the event of serious corrosion where rust particles are breaking off and ending up in your water, you need to act immediately.

If you have a rusty water heater and it’s causing water to leak out from any area, you likely need to replace it. We can help. Count on us for all your hot water needs!

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