Why Your Water Heater Isn’t Working | Water Heater Troubleshooting

Water Heater Isn’t Working Water Heater Troubleshooting - Brubaker Inc.

If you’re like most Americans, you rely on your water heater every single day. Whenever you wash clothes, take a shower, or run the dishwasher you are counting on all of the water heater components working together to provide clean, hot water.

While these appliances last a long time and suffer few mechanical failures, it’s important to know how to identify and troubleshoot water heater problems. If you don’t, you could come home to a flooded garage or basement.

A malfunctioning water heater can range from a minor inconvenience to a major flood. That’s why it is so important to follow regular maintenance procedures and schedule any necessary water heater repair services as soon as you notice a problem. Contact Brubaker Inc. for expert water heater maintenance, repair, and replacement service in the Lancaster area.

How a Water Heater Works

  • Your water heater is made of steel and then covered with a protective coating of enamel, either painted enamel and vitreous or porcelain enamel. This is sometimes referred to as “glass-lined.”
  • Cold water enters the tank through the dip tube at the top of the tank.
  • The dip tube extends down to the bottom of the water heater.
  • Cold water is released at the bottom of the tank.
  • A sensor, located at the bottom of the tank, turns on the burner to heat up the water.
  • Flue gases get released through a pipe in the middle of the tank and out through a chimney.
  • Water gets heated and leaves out of the hot water outlet to wherever you need it.

Common Water Heater Problems

Water Heater Leaks

Water Heater Isn’t Working Water Heater Troubleshooting - Brubaker Inc.Check if your water heater has a drain pan with a drain to the outside. Most small leaks from drain valves and pressure relief valves will simply drain away, but larger leaks and bursts will flood your home no matter what.

A leaking water heater is a serious problem as it can lead to extensive water damage to your home. One common cause of a leaking water heater is tank corrosion.

Modern water heater tanks are very well designed and built to last, but this doesn’t make them impervious to corrosion. If you begin to see any signs of rust or corrosion on your water heater tank, contact a professional water heater technician immediately.

If your water heater is corroded it may be time to replace the tank of your water heater with a newer model. You may also want to consider the installation of a tankless water heater. Tankless water heaters do not use a storage tank, eliminating this risk of leaks of flooding. If avoiding water heater leaks is your priority, tankless is the way to go.

Do not wait for a leak to develop before addressing the problem. It’s also possible for the pipes supplying your water heater to corrode. This may not be as easy to spot as a corroded tank, so make sure you look for signs of corrosion or rust all around the water heater and surrounding pipes.

In many cases, a water heater leak may result from an improper installation. There is no way that you can expect your water heater to operate properly if you do not schedule your water heater installation with a qualified technician. If your pipes are not fitted together perfectly or if subpar materials are used in the process, you can expect to deal with a water heater leak before long.

A faulty drain valve is another likely culprit of water heater leaks. Over time, these valves can work themselves loose and allow water to leak out the appliance. By tightening or, if necessary, replacing the valves, the problem can be solved. Contact your local technician.

Water pressure itself can sometimes lead to a water heater leak. The temperature pressure relief valve (T&P valve) may leak water, either because it is damaged or because water pressure is very high within the device. Either way, a professional plumber will need to assess the situation.

Do NOT ignore a water heater leak, even if you think it’s a small thing. A little leak can quickly lead to a significant flood. If you have any questions or suspect a water heater leak, contact Brubaker Inc. We will find, diagnose and resolve whatever the source of your water heater leak may be.

Other than water heater leaks, the problems you face are how much hot water you get and how hot it comes out of the tap.

No Water Coming Out of Hot Taps

If no water at all is coming from your hot water tap, but your cold tap is fine, you may have a leak detector that shut off the water heater intake. Many water heaters are equipped with a leak detection system, which is designed to automatically shut off the feed water intake if a leak is detected. Sometimes, a roof leak, pipe condensation, or some other source of water can set the leak detection equipment off.

If you’ve inspected the water heater and there are no signs of a leak, follow the leak detection manual instructions for resetting the unit. Usually, it’s as simple as pressing the “reset,” “on,” or “open” button to get the water flowing again. Older units may need to be unplugged and plugged back in.

The other reason you may not be getting any water out of your hot water tap is if the water supply was inadvertently turned off. When turning the water back on, turn the gate valve all the way to the left until it stops, then turn it back a quarter of a turn. Next, tighten the packing nut.

If it’s a ball valve, the handle should be parallel to the pipe. If it’s closed (perpendicular to the pipe), lift the handle in quarter-turn increases until the valve is completely open.

No Hot Water

Pilot and/or Thermocouple

If you have a gas-powered heater and you have no hot water, check the pilot light. Is it out? Relight the pilot by following the instructions in your owner’s manual.

If you can’t relight the pilot, check if the gas line is open. Make sure the handle is parallel to the pipe. Then, follow the pilot lighting instructions again.

If the pilot is on, check if the thermostat has been shut off.

Temperature Problems — Too Hot or Not Hot Enough

Water Heater Isn’t Working Water Heater Troubleshooting - Brubaker Inc.If the water is too hot or not hot enough, check the thermostat on the side of the water heater.

Water heater thermostats are typically set at around 140°F, too high most everyday purposes. We recommend turning the temperature down from 140 degrees to about 120°F. This can help you save energy and prevent scalding. Regardless, you will want to test the water temperature and make small incremental changes to reach the right temperature.

If boiling water comes from your tap and lowering the thermostat doesn’t help, contact a professional plumber right away. Do NOT turn off the water inlet valve! Keep it open to maintain pressure below a danger point.

Instead, turn the thermostat dial to “OFF.” Then, shut off the gas supply by turning the handle so it is perpendicular to the gas pipe. Keep the water heater off until a professional plumber can take a look.

If your thermostat isn’t working properly, contact a professional to repair or replace the thermostat assembly.

Pressure Relief Valves

The pressure relief valve at the top of your tank allows steam and pressure to escape safely. While they are important for safety reasons, they do periodically leak some water with every surge in pressure. This is why there’s a drain pan underneath the heater that allows water to escape via a drain line.

If you notice the pressure relief valve constantly leaking, contact a professional technician to make adjustments.

Drain Valves

Calcium and magnesium are the two most common minerals found in water. The minerals that don’t dissolve into the water form sediment particles that collect on the bottom of your water heater. As they build up, it gets harder to heat the water, resulting in higher energy bills and fluctuating water temperatures. You may also start to notice the tank rumbling and making noise.

This is why it’s so important to drain your water heater of sediment at least once a year, preferably every six months. Follow the instructions in your owner’s manual. If there is significant sediment buildup, water may not be able to drain. Contact a plumber if the water heater won’t drain.

Anode Rods

An anode rod is a sacrificial piece of metal that sits in the tank of water to prevent tank corrosion. Instead of attacking the steel tank, the water corrodes the more reactive metal of the anode rod, either aluminum, magnesium, or zinc.

It’s important to check the condition of the anode rod every year. They need to be replaced every 3-5 years. If it is completely corroded, the water will begin to corrode the tank and pipes.

Make sure you schedule a professional plumbing inspection every year and that the technician inspects your anode rod. 

3 Water Heater Energy-Saving Tips

Water Heater Isn’t Working Water Heater Troubleshooting - Brubaker Inc.Insulate the Water Heater Tank

Insulate your tank water heater with an insulating jacket or blanket to cut standby heat loss by 25%-45% and save yourself 7%-15% on your annual water heating bill.

Lower Water Heater Temperature

In addition to insulating your water heater tank, you can also save a lot money and energy by turning down the water heater’s temperature. We recommend about 120°F.

Set Water Heater to Vacation Mode

If you’re leaving home for more than a couple of days, set the water heater to vacation mode. This is easy to do. Just turn the thermostat dial to “VAC” or “Vacation.” If you don’t have a vacation mode, simply turn your thermostat to the lowest possible setting. This will reduce your costs and energy consumption while you’re away.

Is Your Water Heater on Its Way Out?

Many times, hot water heaters will let you know that they’re not working right before they die completely. Keep your eyes open, and you may not have to suffer that worst-case scenario.

Here are some things to look for so you can get yours repaired before you run out of hot water.

Your water heater makes a lot of noise. Do you hear clunking and banging whenever you start running hot water? This is a sign that something has come loose in your water heater and needs to be repaired. It can also mean that you have excessive mineral deposits or sediment buildup.

Your hot water is actually warm water. Do you love searing hot showers but you haven’t been able to take one in a while? Before you call us, check the temperature on your water heater. Make sure it’s turned up where you want it to be. If that’s fine, then it’s time for a professional to diagnose the problem.

Your bills are expensive. If your water or gas/electric bills spike, it’s a sign there’s a problem somewhere and it might be with your water heater. Take the time to get it professionally inspected to save you money and hassle in the long run.

If you suspect a water heater problem in your Lancaster home, call Brubaker Inc. today. We’ll take a look and let you know what we find, how long it will take to fix it, and how much it will cost you.

Water Heater Replacement Options

Normally, your water heater uses natural gas to heat the water. But, you can use alternative energy sources, such as solar and heat pump technology, to heat your water. And since the average lifespan of a water heater is around thirteen years, you may be considering more energy-efficient replacement options, such as tankless and heat pump models.

Tankless Water Heaters

Tankless water heating systems only heat up water when there is a demand for it. Hence why they are also known as “on-demand” water heaters. Since tankless water heaters only heat the water when you need it, you won’t have to continually heat water as with a traditional water heater tank. And you’ll never have to worry about a flooded garage or basement. Additionally, tankless water heaters last around 2 times as long as traditional water heaters. The main thing you want to consider is the high upfront cost.

If a malfunctioning water heater threatens your home and daily habits, schedule service with the experts at Brubaker Inc. to find and fix the problem fast.

Contact Brubaker Inc. at 717.299.5641 or email us for annual heating, cooling, plumbing, and electrical inspections in Central Pennsylvania.