Water Heater Problem Solving

Picture this scenario: you’re finally getting ready to wind down, relax and enjoy a nice, hot shower. As soon as you turn on your shower, you notice a problem: no hot water!

While this scenario can definitely throw a monkey wrench into your relaxation plans, don’t panic. Many people immediately presume that their water heaters have kicked the bucket and you need to call a plumber. In many cases, however, it’s only a minor problem causing your hot water woes.

Use our simple list of steps to quickly diagnose your current water heater issues – and see if you can fix them yourself. That way, you can quickly understand what the issue is and get it fixed quickly and easily (hopefully).

These steps presume you have at least a basic knowledge of your home appliances (like being able to distinguish between a gas and electric water heater). Remember, if you ever feel too confused or uncomfortable with a diagnostic step, it’s always better to call the professionals.

Step 1: Visually Assess Your Water Heater

(Image Credit: diaper via flickr)

First thing’s first: head down to your basement or utility room to visually inspect the water heater itself. If you notice the water heater catastrophically leaking water, you can immediately know that you’ll need to call a professional.

Step 2: Cut the Power, Gas & Water Supply

(Image Credit: Derrick Noh via flickr)

Before you proceed any further, you want to be sure the power is off on your water heater. Water + electricity = big trouble, so don’t put yourself at any undue risk to assess a water heater issue.

Simply turn off the power at your breaker or fuse box.If you have a gas heater, also switch the gas pilot control valve to its “pilot” setting. Finally, be sure to shut off the valve that feeds water into your heater.

Step 3: For Situations with Not Enough Hot Water

If you have some hot water but it seems to run out too quickly, you may have an issue of overuse or a leak. This can sometimes result from a leaky hot water faucet somewhere in your house, so check for that first. Even a few drips could slowly take all your hot water over time.

If this isn’t the issue, a few other culprits may be to blame:

  • Your water heater size is too small for your home’s hot water demands.
  • Cold and hot plumbing is cross connected.
  • Faulty heating element, electrical components or gas supply issues.

If these are any of the reasons you don’t have enough hot water, you’ll probably want to call in the professionals for a fix or a replacement.

Step 4: For Situations with NO Hot Water

When you’re getting literally no hot water, you may have an issue with the heating element altogether. Here’s what you can do to diagnose:

  • Electric Heaters: Ensure your breaker isn’t tripped. If it is, that may be all you need to fix the problem. Otherwise, you may have a failed thermostat or heating element which will require a plumber.
  • Gas Heaters: Verify that your heater’s pilot light is lit. Please note that if you smell gas, exercise extreme caution as this can be extremely dangerous! Similar to an electric heater, if this doesn’t resolve the issue you may need a replacement gas thermocouple or control valve.

Step 5: For Situations with Rusty or Discolored Water

Rusty or brown colored water typically occurs because of corrosion with a glass lined tank's anode rod. This will require a replacement of the anode rod or of the entire unit altogether if corrosion is too severe.

In most of these cases, it’s best advised to consult with a professional for your next step.

Getting the Best Water Heater Service When You Need It


(Image Credit: Tomwsulcer via Wikimedia Commons)

If your water heater problem goes beyond something you can fix yourself, John C. Flood is available to help. We provide comprehensive water heater repair and installation to make sure you're not stuck in the cold.

Even better, you can save $10.00 if you schedule a service call online! Contact us today so you won’t have to wait another minute to have a hot shower again.

(Featured Image Credit: Tomwsulcer via Wikimedia Commons)