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Why is Your Hot Water Cloudy or Rusty?

The value of clear, healthy water is enormous for residents and building owners everywhere, and it’s naturally concerning if water is discolored for any reason. Within the realm of hot water and water heaters, two of the most common forms of discoloration are cloudiness and a rusty hue — why do these happen, and what can be done about them?

At My Buddy the Plumber, water heater repair is just one of several quality plumbing services we offer to clients throughout SLC and other parts of Utah. What are some of the reasons your hot water might be cloudy or rusty, and what can be done about it — either on your own or with our help? Here are some basics to be aware of.

Sediment Buildup in the Water Heater

The single most common cause of both cloudy water and rusty water from the hot water tap is sediment buildup within the water heater itself. Over time, naturally-occurring minerals in the water will settle to the bottom of the tank and begin to accumulate there. This can insulate the heating element(s) and reduce efficiency, and it can also cause corrosion that will eventually lead to a breakdown of the entire system.

Now, technically speaking these minerals aren’t usually bad for your health. However, they can cause all sorts of problems with your plumbing fixtures and appliances, not to mention the water heater itself. If you let sediment buildup go for too long, you could be looking at a very expensive repair or replacement bill.

The good news is that sediment buildup is relatively easy to prevent, and it’s also not too difficult to remove if it’s already present. The key is to flush the water heater regularly, which will remove the sediment and keep it from accumulating. Most homeowners should be able to handle this on their own, but if you’re not comfortable doing it or if you don’t have the time, our team at My Buddy the Plumber would be happy to take care of it for you.

Old Water Heater

Another possible cause of cloudy or rusty water, often due to sediment issues we just went over above, is an old water heater. Over time, the tank will simply break down and become less effective at doing its job. This is especially true if it hasn’t been properly maintained over the years.

If your water heater is more than 10-15 years old, it might be time to start thinking about replacement — even if it doesn’t seem to be having any major problems at the moment. These units aren’t designed to last forever, so it’s always better to be proactive than reactive when it comes to maintenance and repairs.

At My Buddy the Plumber, we can help you determine whether repair or replacement is the best option for your needs and budget. We’ll also be happy to help you choose and install a new water heater if that’s what you decide to do.

Water Contamination

While many of the issues that cause rusty or cloudy water take place in or around the water heater, not all of them do. In some cases, the water itself might be contaminated, which can cause all sorts of problems — not just discoloration.

There are a few different ways water can become contaminated, but the most common is through old or damaged pipes. If the pipes that carry water to your home or business are rusty or otherwise damaged, they could be leaching contaminants into the water. This is especially true if they’re made of cast iron or other materials that are prone to rust and corrosion.

Another possibility is that the water source itself — whether it’s a private well or a municipal water supply — could be contaminated. This is relatively rare, but it does happen from time. If you and your plumber believe this to be the case, you may have to contact your local municipality for remedies.

Internal Water Heater Corrosion

Another possible cause of cloudy or rusty water is internal corrosion within the water heater itself. This usually happens when the anode rod, which is designed to sacrifice itself to prevent corrosion, breaks down and can no longer do its job.

When this happens, the water heater will start to rust from the inside out. This can cause all sorts of problems, not the least of which is discolored water. If you suspect this is the problem, it’s important to have it addressed as soon as possible.

At My Buddy the Plumber, we can inspect your water heater and determine whether or not internal corrosion is an issue. We can also replace the anode rod if necessary and take other steps to prevent corrosion in the future.

How Regular Water Heater Maintenance Helps

While not every issue we went over above is directly related to maintenance, all of them can be prevented or at least minimized with regular water heater maintenance. This is one of the reasons we recommend having your water heater serviced at least once per year.

During a maintenance appointment, our team will inspect the unit for any potential problems and take steps to prevent them from becoming serious issues. We’ll also clean the unit and clear out any sediment that might have built up over the course of the year.

Keeping your water heater properly maintained is one of the best ways to prevent serious issues from developing in the future. It’s also an excellent way to extend the life of your unit and avoid having to replace it prematurely.

For more on this, or to learn about any of our water heater or other plumbing, HVAC or electrical services, speak to the team at My Buddy the Plumber today.

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Easy Maintenance & Exclusive Benefits

The My Buddy the Plumber’s Club is our comprehensive maintenance membership program that will protect your home comfort systems! From an in-depth home plumbing inspection to thorough furnace and air conditioning tune-ups, the club does it all. Our team will ensure your HVAC, plumbing, and electrical systems are running safely and in top shape. Joining our club can also provide plenty of exclusive perks, such as:

  • Priority service
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  • Electrical safety inspection
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