How to Tell If a Hot Water Heater Is Broken?

Standard hot water heaters are powered either by electricity or fuel, such as gas or oil.
Use sights and sounds to tell if a hot water heater is broken.Use sights and sounds to tell if a hot water heater is broken.
Featuring a large holding tank, a hot water heater stores the water supply and heats it for ready use when you turn on the tap. Sudden loss of hot water is a sign your hot water heater is broken, but there are numerous warning signs that often predict a breakdown. Not every problem means your hot water heater is irreparably broken. Often, the problems stem from a single part, which you may be able to replace to save the overall appliance.

Step 1

Turn on your hot water tap only and let the water run for at least a minute. Test several different taps -- the shower, the kitchen sink and so on. If the water remains cold, your hot water heater is malfunctioning.

Step 2

Smell the water coming from your taps. A rotten egg smell can indicate a problem with the aluminum rod in gas hot water heaters.

Step 3

Run a hot water tap full blast and observe the water flow for signs of weak pressure or spurts. This can indicate a clogging problem in your hot water heater.

Step 4

Listen to your hot water heater for at least several minutes. Listen for popping, banging or cracking sounds. These could be signs of hard mineral sediments, which can eventually form chunks that will break your hot water heater.

Step 5

Look and feel around the hot water heater, the nearby walls and the surrounding floor. Signs of obvious leaks, puddling, mold or a spongy floor are signs of a leaking and broken hot water heater.

About the Author

Tallulah Philange has worked as a journalist since 2003. Her work has appeared in the "Princeton (N.J.) Packet," "Destinations" magazine and in higher education publications. She also has edited and produced online content for those publications. Philange holds a Bachelor of Arts in print journalism from American University and a Master of Arts in communication, culture and technology from Georgetown University.