There are several things that can wear out or stop working on your water heater, resulting in what may seem like the hot water not working in your house. Once you have identified the source of the problem, a trip to a major hardware store and a few common tools can get things heated up again.
No Hot Water – Electric Water Heaters
There are only a few reasons why an electric water heater will not function at all. Start troubleshooting by looking at these areas:
- Grounded Element – A failed heating element can ground out. Water heater element replacement would be necessary.
- Grounded Thermostat – A failed thermostat may short to ground. Replace the component.
- Accidental Grounding – Look for foreign objects shorting across wiring connections.
- Tripped Reset Button – Tripping repeatedly could be the sign of a failed reset button. Replace the component.
- Wire Short – Frayed or scratched wiring could lead to a direct short. Replace all defective wiring immediately to prevent potential fire.
- Water Leak – Leaking elements can sometimes be tightened, and can be replaced if tightening does not work. A leaking tank means the water heater must be replaced.
- Undersized Fuse or Breaker – Replace the faulty device with one rated for more amperage.
- Weak Breaker – Circuit breakers can fail over time and need to be replaced. Replace the breaker.
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No Hot Water – Gas Water Heaters
Gas units have different problems than electric ones, but both types can usually be repaired. If there is no hot water in the house, here is what you should check:
- No Gas – The water heater cannot prevent gas from reaching the pilot light and burner. Simply make sure that the gas is on and the gas valve is not in the closed position.
- Pilot Light – If the pilot light is not lit (see how to light a water heater)but you do have gas flow, check these components:
- Thermocouple – The tip of the thermocouple should be in the flame of the pilot light and must be tightly connected to the gas line. If these things check out, look for kinks in the thermocouple and replace as necessary.
- Air in Line – Verify the gas flow and relight the pilot light several times to force air out of the line.
- Clogged Pilot Orifice – This component can be removed and cleaned to improve water heater operation.
- Clogged, Bent or Defective Supply Line – Pinholes in the gas line can cause intermittent heating. Replace defective lines immediately.
- Defective Gas Control Valve – This component can prevent gas from reaching the pilot or burner. Gas valves cannot be repaired, but are inexpensive to replace.
- Dirty or Clogged Burner – Soot can build upon the main burner, preventing proper heating or even blocking burner ignition entirely. Remove the part and clean it.
- Ventilation – The flue can become obstructed by external events such as storms or rodents. Cleaning the flue is not difficult but has the tendency to be messy. Excessive or unusual winds can blow down the flue, extinguishing the pilot.
Water Is Not Hot Enough
If the unit is still functioning, but produces intermittent results, you may have components of the system beginning to fail. If you are certain that the water heater is large enough for the desired application, one of the following suggestions is most likely the component in need of repair:
- Check Thermostats – If the temperature control is correctly set, the thermostat itself may need to be replaced.
- Inspect Heating Elements – Sediment build up on the heating elements can prevent the water from heating correctly. Heating elements themselves can fail over time. Replacement elements are inexpensive and can be installed in only a few minutes.
- Examine Dip Tube – While failure of this component is not common, it does happen on occasion. You will need to replace the water heater dip tube.
- Loose Wiring – Loose connections on an electric water hear can cause the unit to function erratically. Turn off power to the unit and confirm that all connections are tight and free of corrosion.
- Tank Leak – A leak in the tank itself could prevent water from reaching the desired water heater temperature. Leaking tanks can lead to water damage, short circuits or even a fire. Replacing the water heater is the only solution for this problem.