Possible Reasons Why Your Tank-Style Water Heater Is Putting Out Rusty, Cold Water

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When you turn on the hot water faucet for a shower, you expect the water to gradually heat and come out relatively clear in color. Rust colored water that fails to warm up indicates a problem in your water heater and potentially in your home's general plumbing. Water heaters involve a lot of electricity and water so fixes are best left to the professionals, but you can still educate yourself on the potential causes ahead of the service call.

What are some of the potential causes of a water heater putting out rusty, cold water?

Rusty Color: Sediment Buildup in Tank  

Does the water coming out of your faucets look rusty, even when cold water is running? Do the outside spigots also put out rusty water? If you answered yes, then the problem is in your home's water pipes and you need to call in a plumber. The pipes might have excessive sediment or the pipes could be made of corroding metal that is leaching into the water.

Does the rust color only occur when you try to run hot water inside the house? The cause might be solely in the water heater but the likely cause is still a sediment buildup.

Water heaters have a metal tank that could corrode if minerals in the water could stick to the interior of the tank and stay put over a long period of time. An anode rod prevents this type of corrosion. The rod is charged to attract the sediment out of the water and away from the tank walls.

An anode rode can become overwhelmed with minerals over time and leave the tank walls vulnerable. Rust-colored water can indicate that the sediment is winning inside your tank. Call in an appliance repair technician to drain the tank, check for sediment-related damage, and replace the tank if necessary. 

Cold Water: Electrical Issue

If hot water doesn't come out of your faucets at all, your water heater might have electrical issues. First, check that the breakers for the heater haven't tripped then make sure the reset button on the heater itself hasn't depressed. Flip the breakers back on or hit the reset switch. If necessary, check your hot water again in about a half hour.

Still no hot water? There could be a loose wire or a problem with the electrical signal in the thermostat or heating element. If you have no electrical experience, don't mess around trying to figure out what to do. Water and electricity are a dangerous mix. Call in a plumber who knows how to service all parts of a water heater.