A rusty hot water heater is usually a bad thing. Once the metal starts rusting it can be hard to stop, repair, or reverse. A new tank is often needed instead. However, it's possible the rust in the water signals a different problem than a tank that's rusting on the inside. Here's a look at rust and your hot water heater.
Determine If The Problem Is Really Rust
It the tank is corroded on the outside, then that's a clear sign your hot water heater has a rust problem. If the outside is fine, then it's not as easy to know since you can't see inside the tank. One solution is to flush the tank. By looking at the water that comes out, you can tell if the particulates are rust or sediment. If you have well water, it's possible what you're seeing is sediment rather than rust. Even city water can be contaminated sometimes when the lines are flushed and that can cause your tank to have particulates in it. Hard water is another thing to consider since it can leave a scaly buildup inside the tank. You can scrub the area around the outlet to see if hard water deposits come off and if they look white like scale or red like rust.
Check If The Problem Is In The Cold Line Too
Even if you're certain there is rust in the hot water line, it's possible the rust is coming from the plumbing pipes rather than the tank. One way to test if this is happening is to check for rust in water from the cold water lines too. You may need a plumber to inspect the pipes to determine if they are at fault or if the rust is confined to the hot water tank.
Inspect The Anode Rod
Another thing the plumber can check is the anode rode. This rod is intended to corrode inside the tank. Because it corrodes, the tank itself is protected from rusting. The anode rod has to be replaced before it rusts away or rust will start on the tank. The plumber can pull out the rod to examine its condition. If the rod has exhausted itself, then there's a chance that the inside of the tank is rusting. The plumber will assess the state of the tank and decide if it needs to be replaced or if flushing the water and inserting a new anode rod is enough to fix the situation. Age is an important factor to consider since it may be more cost effective to have a new water heater put in if it is near the end of its useful lifespan.
Visit a website, like http://www.bishopplumbing.com, for more help.