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Solutions for your water heater problems

If you are having issues with your hot water tank, read this guide to discover a few solutions for the most common problems.
1

Electric water heater: no more hot water

Before buying a new electric water heater, check to see if you can repair yours. The following tips can also apply to gas water heaters.

Potential solutions:

  • The high temperature limit may have tripped in the breaker box. If so, turn off power to the tank. Then, remove the cover from the upper element port on the tank. Take out the insulation, remove the element’s cover, and then press the red reset button.
  • If the red reset button doesn’t work, then there is a problem with the electrical supply. Either the high limit is damaged or the electrical feed is insufficient. Use a multimeter to test the electrical supply.
  • There may be a problem with the thermostat either on the top or on the bottom on the tank. Either replace the thermostat(s) or hire a licensed technician to do it.
  • If the inside of the element’s compartment is wet, then it is time to purchase a new hot water heater.
  • If simple repairs do not solve the problem, there could be greater electricity issues within the home. It is highly recommended to hire a licensed electrician to evaluate the home’s electrical system and to complete the repair work.
2

Electric water heater: circuit breaker repeatedly trips the fuse

Most hot water heater tanks need two 30-amp breakers and run at 230 volts. If the tank is not connected to the breaker box as such, the circuit breaker could continue to trip. Hire a licensed electrician to rewire the tank’s power supply.
3

Repairing your gas water heater: pilot light blows out frequently

Gas water heaters tend to require more frequent maintenance.  These heaters simply have more pieces and parts that may need to be repaired throughout the tank’s lifespan.

Potential solutions:

  • Hire a service technician to evaluate whether or not the thermocouple is faulty. The thermocouple is a safety device that shuts off the gas when the pilot goes out. If the thermocouple is faulty, it will shut off the pilot light frequently without cause.
  • Investigate whether or not the pilot light is being blown out by drafts within close proximity to the hot water tank. If needed, install a downdraft hood on top of the tank and a pilot-light baffle below near the pilot light to protect the flame from blowing out.
  • Sometimes power ventilation equipment located nearby could cause the pilot light to blow out. If the water heater shares ventilation tubing with equipment that has power ventilation, then install its own separate ductwork to ensure that the water heater gets a dedicated supply of combustion air.
  • The pilot line could be clogged. It will need to be cleaned by a licensed professional.
  • Lastly, the control valve could be faulty. It will need to be replaced.
4

Repairing your gas water heater: ensuring gas water heater is safe from explosion.

Potential solutions:

  • Raise the hot water tank unit 18" from the floor to prevent the ignition of gasoline vapors that collect near the floor.
  • Yearly, inspect the flue for breaks or gaps that could leak gas.
  • Hire a service technician to check the temperature pressure-relief valve to make sure it is open and functional.

If the home is within a seismic zone, install an automatic gas shutoff valve that stops the flow of gas in the event of seismic movement.

5

Tank is leaking water

Potential solutions:

  • Install or replace the pressure valve if the tank does not already have one or if it is broken.
  • The tank’s temperature could be too high and is therefore causing the water to be under high pressure. Reduce the temperature to 130°F.
6

Anode rod is thinning or coated with calcium

The storage tank provides a means for the hot water heaters to maintain enough hot water for the household’s demands. It is imperative that the hot water tank does not leak, does not become corroded, heats water to an optimal temperature, and is well maintained.

Potential solution:

If you notice that the sacrificial anode rod is less than 1/2" thick or fully coated with calcium, you will need to replace it. Purchase a magnesium anode rod replacement, wrap its threads with plumbing thread seal tape, and insert the rod into the tank. Ensure the rod is tightened securely.

7

Leaking water valve

Potential solutions:

  • Replace the flushing valve.
  • An economical alternative includes purchasing a zinc cap, attaching a hose washer onto it, and then screwing it onto the valve. The zinc cap and hose washer may stop the drip if screwed on tightly.
8

The tank makes noise

Solution:

  • There may be accumulated sediment that’s making noise as it rolls around the bottom of the tank
  • If this is the case, flush the tank using a garden hose and the flush valve.

Caution! If not done yearly, flushing a hot water heater tank may inadvertently cause the tank to deteriorate more quickly.

9

Water smells of rotten eggs

Water heaters, no matter what the fuel source and whether or not it has a tank, occasionally have small issues that can easily be resolved.

Potential solutions:

  • The smell is most likely caused by anaerobic bacteria. However, if both the cold and hot water smell foul, the water supply may have sulfur.
  • To kill the anaerobic bacteria, turn off the cold water valve to the water heater and open a hot faucet somewhere in the home to relieve pressure. Drain the water from the tank; open the plumbing on one side and dump in a few pints of hydrogen peroxide. Close up the tank, turn on the cold water valve again, and let some water run from all the spigots and taps throughout the home. Caution! Take care not to add chlorine bleach to the tank instead of hydrogen peroxide.
  • Do not replace the magnesium sacrificial anode rod with an aluminum anode rod. Also, make sure to keep the magnesium anode rod in place to prevent premature tank corrosion.
10

Heater won’t turn off and is constantly reheating the water

Solution:

Immediately turn off the power supply to the heater at the circuit breaker location. This water heater storage tank needs to be replaced with a new model.

11

The end of the ventilation tube is black and sooty

Solution:

  • Quickly hire a professional plumber to clean the ventilation pipe.
  • Make sure the furnace does not share a vent with the hot water heater and other appliances and equipment.
12

The water tank does not provide enough hot water

Potential solutions:

  • Begin by evaluating whether or not the water heater tank is large enough for the demand or whether the gpm of the tankless heater is sufficient for the home’s cold-water temperatures and hot water demand. If needed, replace the tank or the tankless heater with a unit that can handle the hot water load.
  • Sometimes a gas water heater heats water more quickly than an electric unit. Consider making the change now or plan for the gas-fueled tank or tankless unit for the next time the hot water heater is replaced.
  • The distance the water tank is located from each point of use could be the problem. If there are long pipes, it may take awhile for the existing water to drain from all the pipes until the hot water reaches each point of use. Either relocate the hot water heater to a closer location or install a pump or gravity-fed recirculation system to keep the water circulating in the piping at all times. Recirculation systems may be expensive.
  • Verify whether or not the dip tube is split or broken. If it is, then the cold water will mix with the hot water at the top of the tank where the water leaves to go to each point of use. Replace the dip tube if needed.
13

Water is too cold

Potential solutions:

  • The water heater’s thermostat is set to vacation mode or is set below 120°F.
  • Press the reset button on the high-temperature cut-off.
  • The hot water tank’s heating element needs to be replaced.
  • The water heater’s pipes need to be insulated. Add self-sticking 3/8" thick foam pipe insulation that matches the pipes’ diameter to all accessible hot water supply pipes.
  • Check to see if the high limit switch button has tripped. It is possible the fuse has blown. If so, this circuit breaker will need to be repaired immediately. The circuit breaker wiring may need to be replaced by a licensed electrician.
  • One or more thermostats may be faulty and need to be replaced.
  • Verify whether or not the dip tube is split or broken. If it is, then the cold water will mix with the hot water at the top of the tank where the water leaves to go to each point of use. Replace the dip tube if needed.

Accessories and parts for water heaters.

14

Water is too hot

Potential solutions:

  • Reduce the water heater temperature to 130°F (if set to a lower temperature, legionella bacteria may start to grow). A flat blade screwdriver will be needed. Some tanks’ thermostats cannot be changed without first shutting off their power supply.
  • Turn the thermostat to its lowest setting or to its vacation setting if planning to be away for at least three days.
15

Preparing for repairs with these simple rules

Here are a few general rules to follow to make your life easier:

  • Always turn off the water heater circuit breaker before beginning any repairs and maintenance.
  • Always put back all parts and pieces exactly as they were originally packed when finished making the repair.
  • Follow recommendations from the water heater’s manufacturer.
  • Apply for permits when needed.
  • Review building codes.
  • Follow any recommended precautions when working with electricity and gas fuel.
  • Hire a professional for all work that is too difficult for the homeowner.
16

The hot water storage tank is rusty

Solution: The water heater needs to be replaced.

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