Straight from the Tap

How Your Water Heater Can Impact Your Water Quality


Cleveland Water takes great pride in delivering high-quality drinking water to your house. Homeowners also have an important role to play in maintaining drinking water quality all the way to the glass. It starts with maintaining your home’s own water system.

Cleveland Water intakes bring Lake Erie water into four treatment plants where water is filtered, disinfected, and tested for quality and safety before being pumped out through the 5,300 miles of water mains of our distribution system. Once water travels through the service line and enters your home’s plumbing it divides into cold and hot water systems.

Cold water is intended for consumption. Maintenance of the aerator screen on your faucets is one way to ensure the cold water coming into your glass is the best quality. This should be removed at least twice a year and cleaned.

Hot water starts in the hot water tank inside your home and is intended for hot water needs such as washing dishes, laundry, and bathing and is not intended for drinking or cooking. This is because heated water can cause corrosion in your water tank and in your plumbing, which can impact the smell, taste, or color of the water.

Many of the inquiries Cleveland Water receives about water quality issues can be traced back to the hot water tank. Inquiries we have received that were the result of hot water tank issues include small plastic pieces in water, foul-smelling water, discolored water, and “slimy” water.

By performing regular maintenance, most in-home hot water system issues can be avoided. This includes flushing the tank, checking the tank’s temperature and pressure relief valve (TPR valve), and checking the anode rod, a 3- to 5-foot metal rod inside the tank that diminishes corrosion. These actions should be performed at least yearly and in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations.

Lack of proper maintenance can result in faster corrosion inside your hot water tank. If corroded materials that accumulate at the bottom of the tank are not regularly flushed, they can enter into hot water pipes and cause your hot water to appear rust-colored.

Hot water tanks flushed periodically will also operate more efficiently, heating water to a higher temperature more quickly. If the burners that heat water are covered by too much sediment, water may not be heated to a high enough temperature. This can cause bacterial growth in your tank and result in hot water that has a rotten egg-like smell.

If you find tiny pieces of plastic in your hot water or faucet aerators, the hot water tank may also be the source. Various parts inside a hot water tank are made of plastic, including some TPR valves, the temperature gauge, and the dip tube. These plastic parts are prone to break down over time due to constant contact with hot water.

When performing any home plumbing maintenance be sure to follow all appropriate safety guidelines and manufacturers’ instructions or contact a licensed professional plumber.