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Why Is My Water Heater Not Working?

Mar. 23, 2021
Having trouble with your water heater? You might be wondering what’s causing it.

To help you troubleshoot, below we’ll take a look at some common symptoms caused by water heater problems, including:
  1. No hot water 
  2. Lukewarm water only 
  3. Running out of hot water fast
  4. Fluctuations in temperature 
  5. Water that’s too hot 
Whether it’s a mechanical failure or an ordinary fix, we’ll help you uncover why your water heater isn’t working, and how best to resolve it. Want a professional to come take a look at your water heater ASAP? Contact Air Experts. Our trusted technicians are ready to help — day or night. Call (732) 681-9090 or schedule an appointment online today.

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Problem #1: No hot water

If you don’t have any hot water, it’s most likely a power issue. 

For electric water heaters, check to see if you have a tripped circuit breaker. If it just needs to be reset, your water heater should start working again immediately. If you’ve blown a fuse though, you’ll need to replace it.
For gas water heaters, you’ll want to check a couple of things:
  1. Pilot light 
    When the pilot light goes out, the burner can’t heat your water.
    To tell if yours is lit, look to the bottom of your tank. You should see a flame through a small 1-2 inch opening.
    If you don’t see a flame, you can try to relight it. However, if you’ve never done it before, you might want to call a licensed plumber.
    Note: Because tankless gas water heaters are self-contained, they won’t have a visible pilot light. If you suspect an issue with the burner, call to have it assessed by a professional.
  2. Gas valve ​
    If your gas valve has accidentally been shut off, you won’t have fuel to power your water heater.
    To check, look for a single lever somewhere near or around your water heater. It might even be labeled as “Gas.”
    If the valve has been turned off, it will be perpendicular to the gas line, looking like a “+” or “t” shape. 
    To turn the gas valve back on, twist the lever so that it’s parallel with the gas line. 
    If you’re unsure, or if you smell any unusual odors, call a professional to handle it for you. 
If you still have no hot water after troubleshooting, it could be due to a few other factors, such as:
  1. Faulty heating element - For an electric water heater, it’s possible that its heating elements have failed. In this case, check your parts and labor warranty, because you may need to have them replaced.
  2. Frozen pipes - If you live in a cold climate, it’s possible that you don’t have a water heater problem and the water in your pipes may have frozen. To prevent this from reoccurring, consider adding piping insulation.

Problem #2: Lukewarm water only

If your water is lukewarm, you probably have a greater demand than your water heater can supply. 

However, the problem depends on what kind of water heater you have — tank or tankless:
  1. Tank:
    If you’re experiencing lukewarm water with a tank heater, it’s possible that you’ve drained all of the hot water in the tank, and will need to wait for it to reheat. 
    Depending on your household size and use, if you’re frequently running out of hot water, you might want to consider upgrading to a larger capacity tank. 
  2. Tankless:​
    When you’re getting lukewarm water with a tankless water heater, you’re probably using too many hot water appliances at once. 
    Even though tankless water heaters can heat water on-demand, they’re limited to a flow rate of about 5 gallons per minute. So if your usage exceeds that (say, you’re taking a shower while someone is doing laundry and dishes) your water heater might not be able to keep up.
    To prevent this, you can either limit the number of hot water appliances you use at one time or consider installing “point of use” tankless heaters specifically for certain appliances. 

Problem #3: Running out of hot water fast

If you’re running out of hot water quickly despite having a full tank, it’s possible that you have a cracked dip tube.

In tank heaters, the dip tube is what feeds cold water into the bottom of the tank to be heated. If the dip tube is cracked or broken, it will distribute cold water into the middle or top of the tank. 

This matters because the top is where your faucets pull hot water from. So, even if your tank is heating water, you may only be receiving the cold water.

The good news is that this is a relatively easy fix, and is often covered under warranty.


Problem #4: Fluctuations in temperature

If you’re experiencing fluctuations in temperature, you might have sediment buildup or a water pressure issue.
  • Sediment buildup (tank issue)

    Sediment buildup is common in tank water heaters. As mineral deposits in your water are naturally released, they can form a hardened layer of sediment at the bottom of the tank. When this happens, boiling water gets trapped, and your tank will be slow to heat. 
    To remove any sediment, have a professional come and flush your tank. This will keep your water heater’s temperature control consistent. 
     
  • Water pressure (tankless issue)​

    Tankless water heaters require a certain amount of pressure in order to heat water effectively. If you suspect an issue with your water pressure, call a plumber immediately. You could have a problem with your water pressure valve, which is an integral part of your water heater.

Problem #5: Water that’s too hot

If your water is way too hot, it’s likely due to a thermostat setting. 

According to Energy.gov, it’s best to set your water heater to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. 
Although many manufacturers recommend 140 degrees, if your water is consistently too hot, you should turn the thermostat down. This will not only improve your comfort but help lower your energy bills too.
 

Need a water heater repair from a New Jersey pro?

Contact Air Experts. When you schedule with one of our trustworthy plumbers, you’ll get fast, quality service and upfront prices. Day or night, we’re here for 24/7 emergency support.

To learn more about what to expect when you hire us, visit our water heater repair and water heater installation pages.

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