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10 Common Water Heater Problems

modern home gas fired boiler

We rely on our hot water heaters to heat the water we need for bathing, doing laundry, and washing dishes. We often take our water heaters for granted because we rely on it daily. Just like the other appliances in our homes, problems with water heaters can occur.

Whether your home has an electric or gas tank-type water heater or an electric or gas tankless water heater, it is essential to understand what can go wrong and things you could check before calling your plumber.

#1. No Hot Water

When there is no hot water, the water heater is not working because the heating elements are not turning on. Things to check include:

  • Verifying the electric switch next to your water heater is turned on
  • Checking your breaker box to see if the breaker needs to be reset
  • Removing the access panel on electric tank-type heaters and pressing the reset button
  • On gas water heaters, confirming the pilot light is lit
  • On electric tankless water heaters, checking the sub-breakers in the water heater to see if they need to be reset
  • Checking the thermostat setting to verify it did not get turned down

#2. Hot Water Runs Out Quickly

If you are constantly running out of hot water, your water heater may be too small for your home. Before you replace our water heater, check to see that the thermostat is set correctly. If it gets turned down, you could run out of hot water faster. The thermostat could also be defective where it is not running correctly.

#3. Water Temperature Is Too Hot

If the water is too hot, chances are the thermostat got turned up and is set too high. The thermostat on your water heater should be set between 120 degrees and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Check to make sure it is set correctly.

If it is, there could be a problem with the heating elements overheating the water. To be safe, shut off the breaker to your water heater and contact your plumber for water heater service.

#4. Water Not Hot Enough

When the water temperature is not hot enough, this could indicate a few different problems, such as:

  • The heating elements are starting to fail.
  • The thermostat is defective.
  • The thermostat is set too low.
  • There is excessive sediment buildup inside of your gas or electric water heater.

#5. Discolored Water

Dirty brown water running into a white sink.

Discolored water that is red, brown, or yellowish means there is corrosion either in the water heater or your home’s plumbing lines. A quick test you can do is turn on the cold water and see if it is discolored too.

If the cold water is also discolored, you could have an older home with steel or iron pipes that are rusting. If it is not, the problem is with the hot water supply, which could indicate corrosion inside your water heater or corrosion inside the hot water supply lines.

#6. Odd Smelly Water

If you notice the hot water has a funky rotten eggs smell, it could indicate bacteria inside your water heater. For tank-type heaters, replacing the anode rod may be necessary. Additionally, rotten eggs smells could also indicate a gas leak if you have a gas water heater.

#7. Noisy Water Heater

If you hear snapping, popping, or cracking coming from your water heater, this indicates there is excessive sediment buildup inside the heater. You will want to call a professional plumber to have your tank flushed and cleaned.

If you have a tank-type heater and hear the water boiling inside the tank, shut off the tank immediately. The boiling water will create excess water pressure and could cause the tank to explode if there is something wrong with the pressure relief valve. You should not use the water heater until you can have it serviced by your plumber.

#8. Pilot Light Won’t Light

If the pilot light on your gas water heater will not light, check to see that the gas is turned on. If it is, you could have an obstruction in the gas supply line, or the gas valve could be stuck shut. The thermocouple on the unit could also be defective and need to be replaced.

#9. Pilot Light Won’t Stay Lit

When the pilot light does not stay lit, it means there is not sufficient gas coming through the gas line to keep it lit. This could indicate a faulty gas valve or defective thermocouple.

Another problem could be that you are not keeping the valve pressed down long enough when you light the pilot. Usually, you have to keep it depressed for about a minute before you turn it to its standby setting.

#10. Water Leaking

There can be several causes for water leaking out of the water heater, such as:

  • The plumbing pipes are not connected securely to the water heater.
  • The plumbing fittings have come loose.
  • The gasket seals inside the water heater need to be replaced.
  • The water heater is heavily corroded and has rusted through to the outside of the tank.
  • The pressure relief valve is stuck in the open position.

When to Call a Professional

Technician servicing an hot-water heater

As you can see, your water heater could stop working for various reasons. Sometimes you can check the heater and resolve the issue on your own, as when the thermostat got turned up or turned down. Other times, it is better to call a professional plumber for assistance, in cases where the heater is leaking, the pilot won’t light or stay lit, or the tank needs to be flushed.

For water heater repairs and replacement services in Temple, New Braunfels, San Antonio, and the Austin Metro area, please feel free to contact Christianson Air Conditioning & Plumbing at 521-246-5400 today!

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