YIKES, that’s cold! Common Water Heater Issues

The water heater, sitting at some remote corner of each homeowner’s residence, generally only comes into the forefront when it starts giving trouble. Winters in Southeast Wisconsin are bitter cold enough without running out of hot water! We at Lee Service receive numerous calls from Kenosha and Racine residents for plumbing issues related to this machine that we think you can handle if you’re up to the task.

Just like other appliances in your home, water heaters require periodic service and maintenance for smooth and uninterrupted functioning. Water heaters can be difficult machines to handle, specifically when it comes to repairs. Once your water heater stops working, you should know what to do, whether to apply a DIY approach or to call a plumber like Lee’s.

To start, there are two types of powered water heaters:

  • Gas water heaters that run on natural gas
  • Electric water heaters that run on electricity

Though some tasks can be handled at home, it’s important to know that mistakes working with these devices can result in personal injury and damage to your home.

Common Problems & DIY Solutions

Water Temperature Issues

In gas water heaters, when hot water stops coming out altogether, the first thing to check is the pilot light. If it has gone out, re-ignite the it to get hot water again. If the problem persists, call a plumber.

In electric water heaters, if hot water comes out for a very short span of time, the first thing to check is the thermostat setting. Adjust the tank’s thermostat to a higher temperature, which can resolve the issue.

To properly set the temperature of your hot water heater, set the thermostat so that the water coming out of the tap at full hot is just above 150 degrees Fahrenheit if you have a dishwasher or a little lower if you do not. If the temperature does not change after adjusting the thermostat, you probably need to replace the thermostat or its sensor.

A word of caution, don’t raise the temperature too high.

Smelly Water

When the water coming out from the water heater starts smelling foul, or if the color of water changes to light or dark brown. Call water heaters repair services.

Loud Noises

Banging, popping and hissing noises when your water heater first kicks in are generally caused by mineral deposits that have fallen to the bottom of your tank. Properly flushing your tank can help to eliminate this problem. In fact, flushing your tank every six to twelve months is part of regular hot water heater maintenance.

Call the Plumber

Water heater repair can be to be risky, especially for a novice. Here is when we think it is best to bring in a professional:

Water Below or Around the Tank

If there is a leak in the tank of the water heater, you need to call a professional to replace your equipment. For electric water heaters, this is a crisis that threatens your life, well-being, and property and should be addressed immediately.

Gas Smell

If you have a gas water heater and you smell gas inside the premises, it is an emergency situation, you need to call your water heater repair service. Failing to do so is hazardous to you, your family, and your property.

Tankless Water Heaters

For problems related to tank-less water heaters, it is generally best to call a professional to deal with the mechanical and electrical components of the machine.

Time to Replace?

Sometimes repairs aren’t enough and the whole unit needs replacing. Here are some common causes and signs:

Usage & Water Quality

Hot water heaters that are used a lot won’t last as long as those that are only used sparingly. As your family grows, it will likely impact the life of your hot water heater. Water hardness or softness can also affect the life of each unit as the mineral buildup from hard water inside the tank can clog plumbing lines and may shorten the life of the unit. If either situation applies to you and you have been experiencing trouble with your hot water heater, it may be time to replace it.


Most residential water heaters are sold with a 6-year tank warranty, so a water heater should last at least that long. However, if you live in an older home with an aging hot water heater, even common problems could be an indication that is time to replace. A water heater that is more than 15 years old and is clanging or knocking, failing to produce hot water, inconsistent hot water production, or if you’re unable to maintain a constant water temperature, the unit has likely reached the end of its life.


Unfortunately, there is not a quick, easy fix for a leaking hot water tank. If you notice standing water anywhere near the water heater, call Lee right away. You’ll need to replace the water heater as soon as possible to prevent flooding or other damage to your home. If your water heater requires an expert plumbing repair company and you are located in Southeast Wisconsin or Northern Illinois, contact Lee Service anytime, day or night!