Troubleshooting Common Problems with Your Hot Water Heater
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Troubleshooting Common Problems with Your Hot Water Heater

Home maintenance never seems to end and while certain problems can be postponed for a few months, other items require immediate attention. If you turn on your shower and only find cold water, you soon realize how important your water heater truly is. Here are some water heater troubleshooting tips to help you recognize when you can repair your water heater, and when you may need to invest in a new one. This article will detail the causes and solutions for some of the most common hot water heater problems.

Home maintenance never seems to end and while certain problems can be postponed for a few months, other items require immediate attention. If you turn on your shower and only find cold water, you soon realize how important your water heater truly is. Here are some water heater troubleshooting tips to help you recognize when you can repair your water heater, and when you may need to invest in a new one.

Water takes a long time to heat up

If you are using a large amount of hot water at one time, it could simply be a matter of supply and demand; the water heater can’t keep up with the amount used. If you live in colder parts of the country the incoming water can be very cold during the winter and reduce the water temperature as the city water enters the heater. A solution may be to install a hot water circulation system which uses a small pump to keep hot water in the pipes while sending the cooled water sitting in your pipes back into the system to be reheated. This can actually save money if you let the water run to get the water hot enough for a shower or to wash dishes.

Water has a foul odor

If you live in an older home or one that uses well water, you may turn on your water and notice a strong rotten egg smell. The most common cause of smelly water is anaerobic bacteria that exist in some water and react with the magnesium and aluminum sacrificial anodes that come with most water heaters to produce hydrogen sulfide gas, making the rotten egg odor. The problem is most common in well systems, either private or municipal. add a chlorination system to counter the bacteria.

A temporary solution is to shut off the cold water valve to your water heater, open a hot water faucet in your house to relieve pressure. Drain some water from the tank and disconnect a supply line at the top of the tank. Pour a few pints of hydrogen peroxide into the tank and reconnect the supply line and turn on the cold water. Allow some water to run from all faucets.

The water heater is leaking

There may be several reasons for water at the base of water heater. If the leak is from the temperature pressure relief (TPR) valve, the valve can be replaced by draining the tank, removing the valve from the pipe attached to the tank, and replacing the valve. If the leak is caused by a hole in the tank, the water heater needs to be replaced. The water may also be coming from another source such as a blocked condensate line from an air conditioning coil, cold water lines that are sweating, or a leak from another water supply line. A plumber will quickly be able to tell you the cause of the leak, and the best course of action.

Insufficient amount of hot water

An insufficient amount of hot water can be caused from a variety of things. Check to make sure the pilot light didn’t go out from a draft or from improper venting. If it’s a newer water heater, make sure that the unit is sized properly for your home and your needs. Check the temperature setting; increasing it slightly could provide the necessary amount hot water you need. On an older tank, you could be experiencing a buildup of sediment within the tank. As little as a half inch of sediment could require as much as 70 percent more fuel to heat the water, so routine cleaning should be a part of your seasonal process. Electric hot water heaters typically have two heating elements so one of them may have failed, reducing the heating capacity.

The water is too hot

Excessively hot water is a dangerous situation, not only for the potential for scalding injuries, but the hot water heater is malfunctioning and can be damaged. The temperature pressure relief valve will relieve pressure and drain water if the water temperature becomes too hot. Make sure that the TPR valve is working properly by lifting the lever and allowing some water to flow out of the pipe. 

The other item to check is the thermostat to make sure that it is not set too high.  The temperature should be between 120 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Some models do not have numbers just warm, hot, and very hot.  They usually have a notch or line on the dial at the 120 degree mark.

The last item is with electric water heaters and the heating element. The heating element could be grounding out, which will result in the heating element staying on. When this happens the heating element will burn out prematurely after heating the water to excessive temperatures. This may also be a cause of a leaking hot water heater is the TPR opened to relieve the pressure.

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Comments (2)
I get that rotten egg smell from my laundry machine. May have to call the plumber.

excellent thank you

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