Hot Water Heater Won’t Stop Running – Fix It Today

Are you hearing your hot water heater running constantly? It can be an annoyance but the fix is not always difficult.

Generally speaking, a small leak will cause a hot water heater to run constantly. The leak may be at a joint where the pipes were attached or it could be anywhere around the unit. If you don’t find a leak, add insulation to keep the water tank temperature stable.

Before you do any work on the hot water heater, make sure you are familiar with the process. Working with water and electricity can be difficult and dangerous. 

With the right tools and a little know-how, the new water heater will be in place in no time. In some cases, you won’t have to change the tank, you’ll just need to know how to repair it.

Hot Water Heater Won’t Stop Running

When your hot water heater is running without stopping, it is usually because the tank is draining slowly. This can be a big problem with a water heater tank because a small leak can quickly turn into a big leak.

Here are some places to check for leaks around the hot water heater:

Joints – any joints where two or more pipes were attached are typically a weak link. The joint may start leaking over time.

Listen carefully with your ear near the joint for a hissing noise. If you don’t hear it, visually inspect it for even the slightest leak.

Drain Valve – The drain valve is located near the bottom of the tank. It allows you to purge the hot water heater and clean out the sediment on a periodic basis.

If you detect a small leak or a dripping from the valve, attach a garden hose to drain the water elsewhere until you are able to fix it. Do not consider it to be a permanent fix.

Corroded Tank – The tank itself may also spring a leak. This happens sometimes when the water heater is near the end of its life. If the tank is leaking, it’s time to buy a new water heater.

Loose Connections – Sometimes, loose connections will allow water to bypass the valve. You will hear a hissing noise at the valve if that is the case.

If water is constantly being exchanged in the tank; even if it is only a little water, it will cause the tank to run constantly. It will always be trying to keep the water hot.

Another issue that could lead to a water heater running constantly is sediment in the tank. Sediment will build up over time, which is why servicing the tank is so important.

It isn’t really the sediment that is causing the tank to run constantly. It is because the sediment will reduce the efficiency of the tank. Contact a repairman to service the tank.

What Are Signs That Your Hot Water Heater Is Going Out?

Like any household appliance, a hot water heater will begin showing signs it is about to go out. Knowing the signs and watching for them helps you to replace it before it goes out completely.

Typically, the water heater will begin leaking water from the tank when it is starting to fail. It may start as a slow leak at first but it will quickly get worse. Once a water heater starts to leak, it should be replaced right away. Other signs may include water discoloration and inconsistent water temperatures.

There are actually many signs that a water heater is reaching the end of its life. Some of them may be more subtle than others.

Age – A water heater will generally not last more than 12 years. If your water heater is getting older, it should be replaced. Don’t wait for the other signs to show before you swap it out.

Discolored Water – As the inside of the water heater starts to corrode and rust, it will discolor the water and you will notice it at the faucet. The water may look rusty when you first turn on the hot water at the tap.

Noise – A hot water heater does not generally make much noise. If you start to notice some strange noises or if the water heater just seems noisier than usual, it may be time to fix it.

Amount of hot water – Have you been running out of hot water quickly? This is a sign that the water heater is not working as efficiently as it was in the past.

Water pressure – If the water pressure is lower than usual with the hot water, it may be time to swap out the tank.

Inconsistent temperature – If your shower is too hot one time and too cold the next, it is a classic sign that the tank is ready to fail.

These are really only scratching the surface. If you have any problems with the water heater or if there is anything out of the ordinary, it is worth investigating.

Water heaters are generally workhorses without any problems until it is time to swap them out.

How Often Should A Hot Water Heater Be Replaced?

The decision to swap out a water heater is one that must be made by every homeowner sooner or later. They do have a limited lifespan and when they go, they sometimes make a big mess.

Generally speaking, you should expect to swap out your water heater before it is 10 years old. Even though it may still have a few years left in its lifecycle, you will be saving your home a lot of problems by not allowing it to fail.

You should also take into consideration how frequently you are having the tank serviced. Admittedly, most homeowners will install a hot water heater and not give it any attention. You are cutting the lifespan short if you don’t have it serviced regularly.

A hot water heater should be serviced by a professional every year. Many plumbing companies offer this as an annual service. They will purge the tank to keep sediment from building up and make sure it is working properly.

Along with servicing the tank, they will also inspect it. If they notice that anything is wrong with the tank, they will let you know. It’s always good to get a professional set of eyes on the tank.

You should also check for the following.

Rating Plate – Look on the hot water heater for a sticker or perhaps a plate that tells you a lot about the unit, including the age.

Listen – If you hear any unusual noises, such as a banging or knocking, contact a professional to come to check the tank.

Rust – If you are seeing rusty water at the faucet, it means there is rusty water in the tank. Have it purged or replaced.

Should I Replace Hot Water Heater Before It Fails?

Picture the scene for a moment. You wait too long to replace your hot water heater and it suddenly fails. What could possibly go wrong?

If you wait until your hot water heater fails and the tank rusts through, you could be looking at some catastrophic flooding damage. Replacing your water heater early allows you to avoid the disaster but it also lowers your power bill. A water heater is a minimal investment in comparison with the problems waiting to replace it could cause.

As a general rule, you should replace your water heater when it has been in service for 10 years. You can determine the manufacture date by looking at the rating plate or sticker on the water heater.

If your water heater is showing signs of wear and you realize it is time to change it, then strike while the iron is hot. Don’t put off this necessary task until it fails completely.

You can also take certain steps to ensure that it does not break through and flood your home. This would include draining the water heater and shutting off the water and power to it.

Doing so may be an inconvenience for a few days but it is much better than the alternative.

How Long Will A Hot Water Heater Last Once It Starts Leaking?

So, your water heater has started leaking and you are wondering how long it will last? This is a common question but the answer is something you need to know right now.

If your water heater has started leaking from the tank, it has already started to fail. The leak can get bigger quickly and without any further warning, leading to flooding and the potential for serious damage. Do not wait to replace the water heater if it has started leaking.

There are, of course, different types of leaks with water heaters. In some cases, it may be leaking around a valve or fitting. If that is the case, it may be able to be repaired and the tank will last for a lot longer.

On the other hand, if the tank itself is leaking, that means that there is some other damage that is not as easily seen. Stop using the water heater. Turn off the circuit breaker for the tank and drain the water from the tank. Replace the water heater right away.

All of this is from the simple question of why a hot water heater won’t stop running. As you can see, the answer is much more complex than a simple yes or no.

For the most part, a water heater that runs continually is a sign that there is a water leak somewhere. It might not be from the tank itself but rather, it could be from the drain valve or water may be bypassing another valve. It is also possible that the water heater does not have sufficient insulation.


I love doing things around the house. I'm taking my years of experience as a homeowner and a full-time handyman and putting them here for your benefit. When I'm not writing, you can find me on the beach watching the waves come in. Call me Tom or Tommy, it's all the same to me.

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