Water Heater Keeps Turning Off (Reasons & Fixes)

Water Heater Keeps Turning Off (Reasons & Fixes)

Charlie Hardcastle

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Have you ever found yourself standing in the shower, freezing cold, waiting for the water to heat up? 

This maddening problem is quite common, but fortunately, there are things you can do to fix this.

Some issues may call for a plumber, but basic water heater issues, with the help of a few tools, can be solved right at home. 

Water heaters come in two main types, gas and electric. Both of these types of heaters can malfunction for several reasons.

We’ll cover the most common reasons and how to fix them below. 

Do keep in mind that while you may be able to fix some issues yourself, more complicated problems should always be dealt with by a professional.

Keep reading to learn more about why your water heater keeps turning off! 

Why Does My Gas Powered Water Heater Keep Malfunctioning? 

Over the past few decades, gas water heaters have become a common sight among most households.

These devices are usually affordable and use energy efficiently. Here are some common reasons behind a malfunctioning water heater.

Gas Reserves

Gas-powered water heaters will always need to be connected to a gas supply to keep working.

If there isn’t enough gas, or the supply becomes blocked, the heater’s pilot lamp won’t light up. 

To solve this issue, check to see that there aren’t any blockages within the line valves.

This will ensure that the gas can come into contact with the pilot lamp.

Dirty Pilot Light Burner

A pilot light is one of a water heater’s most important components. If your heater keeps switching off, the issue may be due to a dusty pilot light burner.

If your pilot light is dirty or dusty, the debris will prevent air from circulating within the device.

If this occurs, the pilot light will automatically switch off, along with the whole heater.

If you suspect that your pilot light burner is dusty, contact a plumber for assistance.

Cleaning these parts is a complicated process, so don’t attempt to clean them yourself. 

If you are tempted to reignite the pilot light, think again. The issue may reappear later down the line.

This can cause issues with the whole heater, making you spend more money in the process. 

Dirty Or Damaged Thermopile

A thermopile (see also ‘Thermopile Voltage Low – What To Do?‘) is a water heater component that receives a signal from the pilot light to switch on the gas. Just like the pilot light, dirt and dust can also damage a thermopile.

Water Heater Keeps Turning Off (Reasons & Fixes)

If a thermopile can’t respond to the pilot light, the entire device won’t switch on, even if there aren’t any issues with the pilot light.

Fortunately, thermopiles are cheap and easy to replace. However, it’s always best to contact a plumber to carry out this task, as installing one can be a complex process.

Dirty Or Dusty Air Inlet

A water heater air inlet ensures that air can circulate towards important burners.

Just like the thermopile and the pilot light burner, the air inlet is another water heater component that can malfunction when it’s dirty. 

If the air inlet is blocked, the lamps won’t receive the necessary oxygen, so they won’t turn on.

You can prevent this problem from occurring by keeping up with regular water heater maintenance.

If your air inlet becomes blocked, contact your plumber to clean the debris. They should be able to do this relatively easily. 

Why Does My Electricity Powered Water Heater Keep Turning Off? 

Water heaters powered by electricity are quite common in households. These don’t malfunction as much as gas models, but issues may still occur from time to time.

If your electric water heater is malfunctioning, you should go over the following factors.

Every electric water heater has a comparable electronic arrangement within.

The system contains three pieces; an electrical receptacle, a thermostat, and a heating component. 

All three of these parts can break down and stop your water supply from heating up efficiently. We’ll go over these in more detail below:

Damaged Electricity Outlet

The main part of your electrical water heaters system is the electrical outlet. This component leads electricity to other parts of the device. 

If the heater’s electrical outlet is damaged, your water heater will keep shutting down. If this issue occurs, be careful, as this is quite a severe problem.

Listen carefully to any sounds that occur when you switch the heater on.

If you notice any crackling or buzzing noises, switch the device off immediately.

Keeping the damaged heater on can lead to short circuits, or even more seriously, a dangerous explosion.

If you suspect that your water heater’s electricity outlet is damaged, call an electrician without delay to avoid further damage.

Malfunctioning Thermostat

The thermostat in your electric water heater handles its heating pieces.

The thermostat sends a signal, when the water is too cool, telling the heating components to work. 

This thermostat will look like air conditioning thermostats within a hybrid or an HVAC system. 

Electric water heaters have two heating elements which both need a thermostat.

Water Heater Keeps Turning Off (Reasons & Fixes)

This is why most heaters have two thermostats, a lower and an upper one. 

As is the case with all components, these thermostats can break down. If this occurs, the component may become fixed on the ‘off’ setting. 

A broken thermostat won’t be able to tell the heating piece to heat the water, meaning the heater won’t work properly. If your thermostat is broken, you’ll have to replace it. 

Replacing a thermostat is a job meant for a professional, as working with electricity can be dangerous.

Contact a plumber for this job, but never attempt this yourself unless you are qualified.

Damaged Heating Element

An electric water heater’s heating element will heat the water after receiving a signal from the thermostat.

This is the most prevailing issue that is responsible for a malfunctioning water heater.

If your water heater’s heating piece doesn’t work properly, your tank’s water supply won’t heat up, leaving you with cold water.

This will be the case even if all other components in the heater are working properly. 

If your electric water heater’s heating element is damaged, always contact a plumber to replace it.

If the component isn’t installed correctly, you run the risk of a short circuit occurring. This can lead to serious, and expensive damage later on. 

Troubleshooting Electric Heater Issues

If your electric water heater (see also ‘Electric Water Heater Keeps Tripping The Breaker‘) keeps shutting down, understanding the reason behind the malfunction can save you money on repair costs. 

Here’s a guide on troubleshooting electric water heater issues. 

Begin by switching the power off. Don’t skip this step, as this is necessary for safety reasons. 

Next, check to see that the power supply isn’t the issue. Examine the circuit breakers to see if any have tripped, then replace any blown fuses. This will dismiss any issues with the power receptacle. 

Now you should check to see that the thermostat is working properly. If it is still connected to a power supply and all components are functioning, the thermostat will handle the water’s temperature. 

If the thermostat is malfunctioning, you’ll need to replace it. If both the upper and lower thermostats are working well, the problem will lie with the heating piece.

You might encounter an issue where the heater is fine, but the water still won’t heat up.

This may be due to a few reasons, like using the wrong size water heater for your tank. Check that your heater can handle 75% hot water. 

Now you should make sure that the hot and cold links aren’t crossed. Switch the water supply off, then turn your faucet to its hot water position.

Water Heater Keeps Turning Off (Reasons & Fixes)

If water flows out of the faucet, crossed links may be the issue. 

At the same time, issues with your electrical system may be why your water isn’t heating up.

If you’ve ruled out crossed links or a wrong size heater, examine your electrical system to see if it’s responsible. 

Finally, check your heater to ensure there isn’t a lot of mineral accumulation within it.

Sediments from hard water can build up inside the device. Minerals can make the water heater’s components fail, but removing the build-up is a relatively simple job.

You won’t need to contact a plumber for this, as you can do it yourself!

Do You Need A New Water Heater?

If your water heater keeps switching off, after you keep on fixing it, you’ll need to replace it.

Older water heaters usually last longer than new ones, but they won’t heat water as well as newer models.

Here are some signals that indicate you may need to replace your water heater:

Older Than A Decade: Most heaters won’t last beyond 10 years. If your model is older than this, you’ll need to replace it soon.

Water Leaks: Any water around the heater indicates that leaks are present. These can be repaired, but remember that cracks and leaks can become larger over time.

Sounds: If you notice any unusual sounds emanating from your heater, there may be mineral build-up within it. Sediments can be cleaned, but you may need to replace the unit.

Higher Hot Water Bills: If there haven’t been any changes in your household’s hot water usage, higher water bills may indicate that the heater needs replacing. 

Water Heater Repeatedly Shuts Down: If you’ve tried to solve all of these issues, and your water never heats up, you’ll need to purchase another water heater. 


If your water heater keeps switching off, you’ll need to understand the reasons behind the issue. 

Before you call a plumber or an electrician, go through our troubleshooting guide above to understand what the issue might be.

This may save you more money on determining the problem than the actual repair costs. 

You might even find that the issue is simple enough to fix yourself!

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