Before buying a home, it is a good idea to look at everything carefully and make sure you're aware of any issues. When it comes to the water heater, though, most people just give it a glance and maybe ask how old it is. If the unit is less than 10 years old or so, they just assume it's okay and move on. But age is only one factor to consider. Some hot water heaters can develop issues early on, and other hot water heaters can work for decades. Here are some things you can quickly check to get a better idea of how the hot water heater is actually working before you buy the home.
Check for leaky valves.
Most people assume that when a water heater leaks, it's because the tank has a hole in it. But actually, most water heater leaks come from the valves, and it's pretty easy to tell whether a valve is leaking. Just look at it. Are there drops of water underneath it? Does the valve itself look moist? If so, there's a leak.
See if the water is rusty.
Go to one of the taps, and turn on the hot water. Does it look rusty or discolored? If so, the hot water heater is starting to rust inside, which means it will probably start leaking soon. Plus, who wants to bathe or wash their hands in rusty water?
You can also peek inside the sink for any evidence of rust. If you see rust-colored rings in some of the sinks, then the water heater may be rusty even if you don't see evidence of that today. (You're less likely to see rust when the hot water has been used regularly.)
Listen for rumbling.
When you turn the hot water on, let it run for a few minutes. You want the hot water heater to empty out enough that it then kicks on. When it does kick on, have a listen. Is it making any rumbling noises? This means there's sediment in the bottom of the tank. Sediment itself is not necessarily a sign of anything bad, since you can simply drain out some water and remove the sediment. However, it is a sign that the homeowner has not been keeping up with this maintenance, which may mean the hot water heater is not in great shape.
So what should you do if you notice an issue with the hot water heater? You don't have to back out of the home purchase if you like the house otherwise, but you may want to ask for some money off the price so you have money left to repair or replace the water heater if needed.
For more information about water heaters, reach out to a local plumber.