Discolored Hot Water: What it Means

Discolored Hot Water: What it Means

April 13, 2017

Turning on a faucet and seeing discolored hot water often causes concern: Is it safe? In most cases, household water with a slight color tinge presents no health threats. However, it’s definitely an aesthetic issue and can also be a sign of ongoing plumbing problems that will only get worse with time. If the hot water in your home is discolored, there may be several potential causes. Before you start thinking about replacing your water heater, you should try and establish the exact cause of the discoloration. While the expertise of a qualified professional is required to diagnose and repair the exact cause, let's look at the top reasons for discolored hot water in your home.

Is It Only Hot Water?

If your cold water is clear and only hot water is discolored, the usual suspect is the water heater. These are the potential causes that your water heater could cause.

Sediment Accumulation

Mineral sediment condensing out of hot water accumulates in layers at the bottom of the water heater tank. While it presents no health issues, the presence of mineral sediment can discolor hot water. Sediment also causes your water heater to run longer cycles to heat water to the desired temperature, wasting energy, boosting operating costs and reducing the expected service life of the heater. Flushing the water heater at least once a year—before the sediment permanently hardens—can eliminate the source of discoloration and also extend the heater's life expectancy.

Internal Corrosion

A rusting water heater tank can add color to hot water, too. Internal corrosion may be due to age and/or the result of sediment accumulation when the heater isn’t properly maintained. Evidence of tank corrosion is a sign that the heater should be replaced immediately. A rusted tank may fail at any time and cause significant water damage inside your house.

An Old Water Heater

If your water heater is 10 years or older and is discharging discolored water, it's probably reached the end of its useful life. If the heater also produces banging or rumbling noises, temperature fluctuations, water leaks or there's visible corrosion on its tank, you should replace it as soon as possible. Hot water discoloration may not necessarily harm your health, but may indicate a problem with your water heater or plumbing system. For that reason, when your DIY efforts to resolve the issue don't work, don't hesitate to contact us about your water heater issues.

Non-Water Heater Related Causes

Public Water Supply Issues

The discoloration in your hot water may be due to momentary disturbances in the municipal water supply. Check the kind of water another cold-water tap in your home is delivering. If it's also delivering discolored water, then there's probably a municipal problem. However, if the water that comes out is not discolored, then narrow down your list of possible causes to the three below.

Corrosion in Steel Water Pipes

Rusty steel pipes can also cause discolored hot water. The rust clinging inside the inner walls of the pipes can cause your taps to discharge rusty to dark brown hot water. If you have aging iron plumbing and are experiencing discoloration problems, it may be necessary to consider re-piping before it's too late.

Water Heater Maintenance

Lack of regular maintenance allows mineral deposits to build up in your water heater's tank until they get into the water, resulting in discoloration. You can fix this problem by flushing your water heater. Schedule annual maintenance of your water heater to prevent the problem and make your water heater last longer.

Discolored Hot And Cold Water

When the water supply lines in your house deteriorate due to age and mineral deposits, this will typically add a rusty or muddy tint to all water—hot and cold—entering your home. A plumber can evaluate the condition of the pipes and discuss options for re-piping to restore crystal clear water quality.

For help resolving discolored hot water issues, ask the experts at Lozier Heating & Cooling.

Our goal is to help educate our customers in the greater Des Moines, Iowa area about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems).