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Hot Water Heater Not Working – Common Problems

Hot water heater troubleshooting guide

It’s bound to happen at some point –– you wake up one morning, and go to take a shower only to find that… there isn’t any hot water.

Oh, no –– could it be that your hot water heater is on the fritz?

Whether you have an electric or a gas water heater, you are likely to run into one of these common hot water heater problems:

  • Water not getting hot
  • Water heater leaking
  • Odor or discoloration
  • Making noises

Depending on the problem, you may be able to troubleshoot the issue yourself, or you may need to call in a professional.

Either way, we’ll help guide you through what to do if you should find yourself in one of these situations.

Troubleshooting Your Water Heater

As with any major home appliance, there are many things that can go wrong with your hot water heater. Since there are many different types, from tankless, to natural gas, propane, or electric, some issues may be particular to your situation.

Here we’ll take a look at some of the most common hot water heater problems for gas and electric water heaters, and what you can do to get back on track.

Water Not Getting Hot

A hot water heater not producing hot water is one of the most common, and easy to notice, issues that people come across. If you find yourself having some problems with your water temperature, there are a few things that could have gone wrong:

  • Temperature on water heater needs increased
  • Lack of power
  • Undersized water heater
  • Faulty thermostat

In this case, rule out electricity problems first. Check to see if there are any tripped circuit breakers, blown fuses, or the like. Then, check if power is running to the electric water heating thermostat; if that element is not working, replace it.

Next, check to see if the water heater temperature needs turned up. Did something knock the dial and lower the temperature? Check this just to make sure this small fix isn’t the issue.

If that isn’t the case, test whether the water heater is undersized by first checking to see if the heater has 75% capacity of hot water. Then, turn off the water supply and turn on a hot water faucet to see if water still flows. If it does, look for a crossed connection.

Obviously, these steps are more for electric hot water heaters rather than gas ones. For a gas water heater, check to see if the pilot light went out. If this is the case, and the light isn’t staying lit, the issue could be with the thermocouple.

If the necessary fix is a smaller one, such as the breaker or thermostat, you may be able to fix this yourself. However, if you find yourself needing a replacement hot water heater, or can’t pinpoint the issue causing the cool water, it may be time to call in a professional.

Hot Water Heater Leaking

Another common issue that you might run into with your hot water heater is leaks. Since hot water heaters have several ports and valves that can be a culprit for leaks, it’s good to look over all of them to see if they are leaking.

Is the water heater leaking from the drain valve, the pressure relief valve, the gas control valve, or the electric heating elements? Check all of these places first for leaks. From there, also look for any overflow pipe leaking or leakage from the bottom. You should also take a look at the plumbing system above the water heater, too.

If you find the leak, the fix could be as easy as tightening a loose bolt or piece. It’s also possible that a small piece may be cracked/broken and need replaced which is most likely a job for the pros.

If after checking all those elements you can’t locate the leak, it’s time to call a professional. The end result may be needing to replace your hot water heater.

Bad Odor or Discoloration

Should you find that your water is emitting a weird smell similar to rotten eggs, it’s likely that there is some bacteria buildup in your tank that is causing it.

In this case, you should clean out the tank with either hydrogren peroxide or chlorine bleach in order to eliminate the bacteria. First, flush the water heater, then treat the tank and pipes with the chemical solution. Additionally, if the smell persists after this treatment, you can also replace the anode rod with a zinc-alloy anode.

Depending on your level of comfort working on your hot water heater, you may wish to call in a professional to take care of the issue.

Water Heater Making Noises

Hearing a rumbling sound from your water heater could indicate that there is some sediment buildup of the scales on the heating elements, causing overheating and boiling water. Similarly, a high-pitched squeak can also occur.

In either case, flush the hot water and then clean the scales from the water heater tank to fix the issue. Again, depending on comfort level with water heater work, calling a professional is recommended.

Other Issues

Of course, these are not the only problems that can occur with your hot water heater. You might also find that you come across other issues like low water pressure, which can be caused by a variety of issues, most likely a clog in one of the tubes.

Also keep in mind any other factors that may contribute to your having issues with your hot water heater. For example, if you are experiencing a bout of cold weather, that might be causing the water to take longer to heat up.

Many issues that occur with hot water heaters are fixable, as they require only small tweaks or replacements to get things back in working order. In other cases, however, you may need to go ahead and replace the entire hot water heater if the issue is major enough.

If you aren’t sure whether or not it’s time to replace your hot water heater, err on the side of caution and call in a professional to take a look at what you are dealing with. You may find that in the end it is more cost effective and easier to simply replace rather than repair.

Get Your Hot Water Heater Back in ShapeBradford White RE340S6-1NCWW 40 Gallon Upright Electric Water Heater, 240 Volt/4500 Watts

No one likes having to fix or replace a major appliance in their home. Often times, when your hot water heater starts malfunctioning, there are some very simple ways to determine what the issue is, and set about fixing it. Other times, you may need to get a replacement.

If you’re noticing your water not getting hot enough, leakage, a bad odor or discoloration in the water, or strange sounds, these are all signs that your hot water heater needs some attention. While you may run into some of these problems with both gas and electric hot water heaters, a few are unique to electric ones specifically.

Whether you are in the need of a new hot water heater, or just thinking about replacing yours with the same one you already have, look no further. Total Home Supply has you covered, with tons of hot water heaters for the choosing, from brands that you know and trust.

Mickey Luongo

Mickey is the resident heating and air conditioning expert with over 15 years of experience in the industry.

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