These photos of water heaters were taken during home inspections in Parker and Aurora Colorado. As you can see, they have both “Flamed Out” which means the pilot light or heating elements have failed and replacement is needed. A hot water heater is a relatively simple and safe device that is essential to a comfortable life style. It operates by having cold water enter a tank which is then heated by an electric or gas burner inside. As the water is heated to between 120 to 140 degrees, pressure builds and the hot water is then released into the hot water pipes when a faucet is opened creating an escape route for the pressure within. A standard hot water heater is expected to last from 10 to 12 years on average.
Whether a unit needs to be replaced or can be repaired depends on several factors. If a pilot light flickers out, or a thermostat or valve develops a functional issue, a qualified plumber may be able to repair the unit if is less than 7 or 8 years old. If it is an older unit, it is likely more cost effective just to replace it. If the unit begins to leak around any of the valves, or the temperature relief valve in particular, it should be inspected by a qualified professional and likely replaced. If a unit develops and issue like these have, where the burner unit has worn out and emitted flames from inside the unit, it should be replaced for safety.