No one wants to turn the faucet for a nice hot shower and instead be greeted with ice cold water. Fortunately, hot water heaters rarely give out with no notice, you just have to be aware of the signs of an impending problem. The following are three things you don't want to ignore if you don't want a surprise cold shower.

#1: Loud noises

Occasionally gurgling or pinging noises aren't usually a concern, especially if they aren't audible throughout the entire house. You have a problem when the noises get loud. If your water heater is banging, then chances are you have extensive hard water minerals built up inside the tank. The banging typically occurs when the tank has been emptied, since this is when these sheets of mineralization start contracting and popping off the inside of the tank, where they can clog the water lines. Having the tank drained and flushed once annually can minimize this mineral buildup and help you avoid a breakdown.

#2: Decreased capacity

Does it seem like your hot showers are getting shorter and shorter? It may not be your imagination. The same mineral deposits that can cause banging can also minimize the holding capacity of your tank. This is because the minerals take up space that should be occupied by heated water. Once again, the best solution is to have the tank drained and flushed. If the mineral buildup is large enough that it is causing a noticeable loss of hot water, then you need to act quickly because it is now severe enough that it can cause other performance issues with your heater.

#3: Lukewarm water

Another thing to watch for is decreasing water temperature. If the water just doesn't seem to get as hot as it used to, there are two common culprits. Most likely is that one or more heating elements have burned out. In this case, simply replacing an element can solve the issue. The other problem can once again be traced to mineral buildup. Sometimes buildup covers the element, reducing it's capacity to heat the water. When your plumber has the tank drained, they can remove the element to either clean it or replace it, depending on the extent of hard water buildup.

For more help, contact a hot water tank repair company like Brown's Plumbing, Pumps & Spas in your area. They can diagnose and repair the problem before you end up needing a full tank replacement.