Water heater problems are the stuff of nightmares for many homeowners. Imagine it: You wake up, stumble into the shower, turn on the water and…it’s all cold. Not only are you grumpy and dirty, but you have the added stress of figuring out what has gone wrong with your home. Here is the down and dirty on water heaters, so you can avoid problems or figure out what to do about yours as soon as possible.
When Your Hot Water is Gone
If your hot water disappears entirely, it’s easy to think that your water heater is dead. However, that’s not necessarily the case. While no hot water does mean that your water heater is currently unable to function as normal, it’s not necessarily at the end of its useful life.
If you can, check the voltage coming into your water heater. This will let you know if it’s getting any power. If it’s not, the problem may like in a bad circuit breaker or switch, rather than in the water heater yourself. Even if you can’t check the voltage, you can always find your breaker box and flip the breaker, just to make sure it’s working properly.
When you find yourself flipping the breaker for your water heater a lot, it’s time to get a new one. Yours may be too small for your water heater, or it may be old worn out, or damaged. Replace the breaker with a new one and make sure it can handle the amps that your water heater needs to function well.
You may have also had a power surge. This can cause your water heater to turn off until you push the reset button. If you press it and it makes a distinct click, then something happened to turn the water heater off. If this happens regularly, you may need to replace your thermostat.
Accidental grounding or shorts in the electrical system can also cause your water heater to turn off. These often occur in the thermostat or the heating element. If you can’t find any accidental groundings, try replacing one of these two elements. Check your cost, though, because it may be in your best interests to just replace your water heater.
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Sometimes, your water heater doesn’t die all at once. Instead, your so-called hot water becomes lukewarm, or it doesn’t last as long as it’s supposed to. Many times, this means that one of the two heating elements in your water heater, usually the lower one, has gone out.
You can test this yourself. First, turn off all electricity to your water heater. Then, remove the access panels so you can see the tanks where hot water is stored. Touch, or put your hand near, each of these tanks. If one is significantly cooler than the other, it means that the heating element has gone out in that one.
A professional plumber can take this one step farther, testing each element to make sure it is getting the right amperage and voltage that it needs for optimal functioning. This isn’t essential, but it can help make sure that you replace the right part on your broken water heater.
You may find that you only have hot water problems when it’s cold outside. This can still mean that you need a new heating element or a new water heater. When the air surrounding your water heater is cooler, the heater has to work harder to keep the water hot. This can tax a damaged heating element beyond what it can bear, even though it works just fine most of the time.
When You’re Not Sure if Your Water Heater Has a Problem…
If your hot water disappears or you don’t have as much of it as you used to, it’s pretty obvious that your water heater needs some attention. However, there are a few other, more subtle, signs that you should get it some TLC. If you notice these and fix the problem, you may never have to run out of hot water.
● A noisy water heater. If your water heater bangs or rumbles regularly, there may be sediment built up inside of it. This can damage the water heater and shorter its lifespan.
● Rust in your hot water. This means that, somewhere in your system, metal has been exposed to water and is oxidizing. In order for these parts to get exposed to water, something isn’t right in your water heater.
● Water on the floor around your water heater. Even a few drips of water on the floor by your water heater can indicate a crack in the tank. While this may not be urgent immediately, eventually the crack will grow and your water heater won’t hold hot water anymore.
We’d be happy to come take a look at your water heater, even if you’re not entirely sure if there’s a problem. Give us a call and we’ll let you know what needs to be done. If it needs to be replaced, we’ll talk through your options with you.
If you’re replacing your water heater, you’ll want to consider all the options. Traditional water heaters are the large cylinders that most of us think of when we think “water heater.” They are also called tank water heaters because that large cylinder contains a tank where hot water is stored until you need it.
Tankless water heaters, on the other hand, do not store water. Instead, they heat it up as you need it. They are energy efficient, though they are also more expensive. However, you will often recoup that cost in energy savings if you use the tankless heater long enough.
Not sure which is right for you? We’ll talk you through your options and help you decide what will work best for you and your family, so you can always be sure to have the hot water that you need. Call us today for all of your water heater needs.
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