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Diagnosing Hot Water Heater Problems

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The average life of a hot water heater is about 10-18 years.

Unfortunately, there isn’t usually much warning that a hot water heater is about to go. Often, the first indication you’ll have is getting hit in the face with cold water during your morning shower. In other cases, you realize something is up when you step in a puddle caused by a leak.

So, if you’ve noticed that you’re having hot water heater problems, how can you figure out what the cause is?

Check out this guide to diagnosing a hot water heater malfunction to identify what repair you need.

Water Leaking

If you have a water heater with a tank, you may experience a problem where water leaks from either the bottom or the top of it.

If there is water leaking from the bottom, it could simply be because of normal condensation, but it could also be caused by a leak in the heating element gasket. Water leaking from the top of the water heater could be a sign of loose piping, or a problem with the inlet valve.

No Hot Water

It’s clearly a problem when you turn on the hot water faucet and only get room temperature water. What’s less clear is the cause of the problem.

In some cases, it might be a fairly simple fix. For instance, if you have an electric water heater, it could simply be a case of a tripped breaker. If resetting the breaker doesn’t help, the problem might be more serious.

There might be a part that needs to be replaced, such as the heating element. That said, depending on the age of your hot water heater, paying to repair it may not be worth the cost in the long run. If your water heater is at least 10 years old and you’re not getting hot water, it’s probably time to replace it.

Not Enough Hot Water

Sometimes, your water heater might be producing hot water, just not enough of it.

Anyone who grew up with siblings knows that someone can run all of the available hot water by spending too much time in the shower. But if your shower is turning lukewarm after only a few minutes, you could have a problem.

There are several potential causes for this problem. If it’s the winter time, it could be something as simple as it taking more time for the water to heat up because it is traveling through cold pipes. Or, you might have a problem with a faulty element or loose wiring.

In other cases, the problem might be with your thermostat. Your water heater has a setting on it that limits the maximum temperature water can be heated to. This is a safety feature to prevent burns.

If the temperature the water heater is set to is too low, the water might not feel hot enough. There could also be a calibration problem, where the temperature the thermostat is displaying is not the one it is actually set to.

Finally, depending on the size of your family, your hot water tank might just not be big enough. If you have multiple people showering every day, and are running the dishwasher and the washing machine, you need more capacity than a single person or a couple. You might want to consider a bigger tank or even a tankless water heater.

Water Takes Too Long to Reheat

As we mentioned above, if you’re using a water heater with a tank, it’s possible to exhaust the available heated water. That said, it shouldn’t take hours for you to get access to more hot water after this happens.

Electric water heaters typically take longer to heat water than gas ones, and older water heaters usually take longer than newer ones. if your water heater is taking far too long, it could be caused by a buildup of sediment on the heating element.

Water is Too Hot

On the other end of the spectrum, you may have a problem where the water temperature jumps from room temperature to scorching. This is usually because the temperature the thermostat is set to is too high. If lowering the temperature does not resolve the problem, the thermostat may need to be replaced.

Strange Noises

It’s normal to hear steam-like noises coming from your water heater as it heats water to temperature. But hearing popping, banging, and hissing sounds coming from the hot water heater is not normal.

Often, these noises are caused by a buildup of sediment. Sediment usually builds up on either the element or on the bottom of the water tank.

Sediment buildup is common if you live in an urban area with high mineral content in the water. If this is the case, you may need to have a plumber come and clean out the tank.

Rusty Water

No one wants to turn on the faucet at home and see brown water come out. If your hot water, in particular, is rusty, it could be caused by corrosion in the tank.

If left untreated, this corrosion could cause to a leak in the tank. The tank would then need to be replaced.

End Your Hot Water Heater Problems Today

If you’ve diagnosed your hot water heater problems, the next step is to get the repair you need. For this, you’ll want to bring in the professionals.

For any Orange County plumbing needs you have, contact us today. We’ll help you get your plumbing back in working order so you can enjoy hot showers again.

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