There isn’t much that can go wrong with water heaters, but it does happen, and when it does you may be at a loss as to what to do about it. Follow these simple steps to troubleshooting your water heater and applying easy repair solutions as applicable.

Before You Start

Take the proper safety precautions before doing any tinkering with your water heater.

  • If it’s an electric water heater, turn off the power to it by switching off the appropriate fuse or circuit breaker that powers the water heater.
  • If it’s a gas water heater, locate its gas control valve and turn it to the “pilot” setting.
  • Make sure to shut off the water supply that feeds the water heater.

Symptom #1: It’s not making hot water.

This can be attributed to a bad gas pilot or gas pilot control valve, or a faulty thermocouple. You may be able to fix this by checking the flame on the gas pilot to make sure it is properly alight. Using the small screw, adjust the flame throw to make sure it’s not too strong (it may be noisy) or too weak (smaller than 1/2 inch). When you are done, make sure you re-tighten and replace the gas thermocouple and the gas pilot control valve.

Symptom #2: You’re getting lukewarm water instead of hot water.

First of all, you want to make sure that your water heater is large enough to deal with your hot water usage. Your hot water consumption should be about 75% of your water heater’s capacity. For example, a 40 gallon water heater should be used to service a household that consumes 30 gallons of hot water. There are various resources online that will help you calculate your household’s water usage.

If your water heater is the proper capacity, the problem may lie within a crossed water connection between hot and cold water. Turn off the water flow to the water heater. Next, try turning on the hot water in your sink faucet. If water comes out, there is a crossed connection. Look for a cold water line connected to a hot water line on your water heater or faucets.

Symptom #3: Your water heater seems to be leaking.

The temperature and pressure valve on your heater may be leaking due to too much pressure, or a faulty valve. Eliminate the former possibility first by putting a bucket under the overflow pipe and flushing the temperature and pressure relief valve. If you still see a leak at the temperature and pressure valve, simply replace the valve.

Sometimes the issue will be one that you won’t be able to repair on your own. If none of the above steps seem to be helping, call in a professional from a company like Mechanical Energy Systems to assess the situation and get in the proper repairs.