A water heater is one appliance that functions almost all the time. It supplies hot water to every faucet in your home, as well as other appliances like the dishwasher and clothes washer.
And because it works really hard on a regular basis, the water heater is likely to have several maintenance and general problems, of which inadequate hot water is among the most common.
At times like these, here are some things you can look out for:
Water Heater Troubleshooting: Excessive Demand
When there are too many appliances and fixtures feeding off hot water from your water heater, the hot water demand increases and can cause a shortage of hot water. This is a common problem and if you have just noticed it, then it might be caused by one of the following:
- If you recently upgraded your bathtub, more hot water may be required than your old bathtub.
- A replacement showerhead having multiple sprayer heads or a higher flow may demand more hot water.
- New or updated bathrooms and kitchens from a home renovation project can increase hot water demand.
- Additional members in a household can cause the demand for hot water to exceed supply capacity.
- Additional appliances or new high-capacity appliances also require more hot water.
1) Have your water heater replaced with a model that has a larger capacity. Water heaters come in tank sizes from 28-100 gallons. A 30-gallon water heater tank is suggested by most experts as a minimum requirement for 1 or 2 people, 40 gallons for 3 or 4 people, and 50 gallons or more for over 5 people. Note that the recovery time for gas water heaters is less than electric heaters.
2) Go with a tankless heater. With tankless water heaters, water is heated only when needed. Unless all of your appliances are using hot water simultaneously, you practically will always have hot water. Tankless heaters are available in whole-house and smaller point-of-use models.
3) Outline your hot water demands on a usage schedule. For instance, larger households can run dishwashers and clothes washers in the dead of night to improve hot water supply.
Excessively Cold Incoming Water
In areas with cold climate, the water going into the heater can get very cold during winter, requiring the water heater to spend more time in heating it. This might affect the volume of your hot water supply.
Increase the setting of the water heater thermostat during wintertime. In a way, this can compensate for the colder incoming water at that time.
Water Heater Troubleshooting: Low Pressure
The flow of the incoming water is what pushes hot water out to appliances and fixtures. If there is a reduced pressure in the water supply to the heater, there will also be a reduced pressure in your hot water supply.
Water pressure issues can be a difficult fix since it can have a number of causes. In some cases, new plumbing may be required to replace old, corroded pipes. Your water pressure regulator (if available) may need to be replaced or adjusted.
Low Water Heater Thermostat Setting
For home safety and energy saving purposes, homeowners typically set the water heater thermostat at 120 F. While this practice is good, chances are a faucet or shower may be running hot water at a maximum position so as to satisfy your needs. With this, your water heater can quickly be emptied during peak-use periods.
Increase the thermostat setting to at least 140 F. For you to get comfortably warm water at this setting at a faucet or shower, you will have to mix the flow of the cold and hot water. This will preserve the hot water left in the tank.
Warning: Increasing the water heater temperature can result in severe burns. In many cases, it is recommended and required to install a TMV for protection.
If there is still no increase in the temperature of water after you have increased the thermostat setting, then you may have a faulty thermostat. This issue is quite common with electric heaters, whose thermostats are typically attached to both lower and upper heating elements.
Replace the faulty thermostat.
Defective Electrical Heating Element
There are two heating elements attached to electric water heater tanks, and it is not uncommon for them to wear out. It is also quite easy to diagnose a heating element. A faulty upper heating element usually results in a steady supply of lukewarm water, while a fleeting supply of very hot water may indicate a faulty lower heating element.
Test the heating element and replace it. You can do this quite easily yourself.
Water Heater Troubleshooting: Sediment in Tank
If there is a buildup of sediment, rust, and corrosion in the water heater tank bottom, the heating element or burner will have a hard time heating the water and in turn reduce the efficiency of hot water supply.
Prevention is the answer. Flush the water heater tank yearly to clear any sediment buildup and rust beneath the tank.
Far Distance to Water Heater
Some homes have bathrooms at quite a distance from the water heater. Not only will it take a while for hot water to be supplied to the sink faucet and shower, but it may run out altogether rather quickly. This is because longer pipe runs connecting the water heater and faucets require a substantial volume of hot water to be heated up.
There are several ways to solve this:
- Install a point-of-use heater closer to the faucet to supplement it.
- Position a recirculating pump to instantly heat up water in the lines.
- Insulate the hot water supply pipes running to the distant faucet in order to prevent heat loss.
Defective Dip Tube
The design of water heaters is such that cold water goes into the tank through a dip tube running from the top all the way through the tank, settling at the bottom. This way, the hottest water remains near its outlet pipe at the top of the tank.
A broken or detached dip tube may send cold water into the tank in such a way that it dilutes the hot water immediately. The resulting water supply will then be lukewarm and have a reduced volume.
Detach the cold water inlet pipe from the water heater, take out the existing dip tube and install a new one. Dip tubes are quite cheap and easy to replace.
Water Heater Troubleshooting: Faulty or Dirty Burner
A dirty or nonfunctional burner can affect the efficiency of a gas water heater. The burner’s flame should burn steadily and bright blue. If this is not the case, or the color of the flame is yellow, it would not heat up the water in the tank properly.
Service the burner. This usually involves cleaning the jets to enable free flow of gas. Replace the burner if badly corroded or cracked.
Worn Out Water Heater
Water heaters have an average lifespan of 8-12 years. Regardless of how well it is maintained, sediments will eventually build up and affect the overall efficiency of the water heater to supply adequate hot water. It may be difficult to resolve hot water supply problems if your water heater is 10 years old at least.
Old water heaters have to be replaced. Ensure to choose a new water heater that has a large enough tank size to suit your needs. You may also want to consider a modern tankless water heater unit.