Seeing discolored hot water coming from one of your home’s faucets can be distressing. However, you don’t need to assume that it means your water heater is on its way out: there are several different reasons that you may be getting discoloration in your hot water.
Discolored water can occur as the result of a temporary disturbance in the public water supply. If this is the case, you’ll see the discoloration whether you have the hot or cold water on. In this case, you should contact your utilities company.
If it is a problem with your home’s hot water, it may be the result of a mineral buildup in your tank water heater. Your heater’s tank should be flushed periodically to get rid of any sediment buildup; beyond just discoloring your water, it can also interfere with your water heater’s energy efficiency, and cause hot spots and corrosion inside the tank. Consult your owner’s manual on how to flush your hot water tank, or call your local HVAC experts for water heater maintenance.
Corrosion in your pipes can also cause a discoloration in your water, particularly if your home was built using the less-expensive galvanized steel pipes. If this is the case, the pipes will need to be replaced; continued corrosion can lead to pipe leaks, which can flood your home.
Another cause of water discoloration is the presence of iron-reducing bacteria in local groundwater. If these bacteria enter your tank, they may feed on the iron present in the municipal water supply, discoloring the water and wearing out the inner components of your hot water heater. Slightly chlorinating your water destroys the bacteria, clears your water, and helps to protect your water heater’s tank.