Water heaters are dependable appliances that only fail when ignored for long periods of time. They have only a few parts that can fail, which are easy to service. However, water heaters will begin to fail with age. While they cost more than most appliances, they are a basic requirement for comfort and modern living. If you are constantly running out of hot water, chances are that your hot water heater needs troubleshooting and service.
If you discover a wet spot on the floor under a water heater, it is likely to have an impending failure. It’s likely that the source of the leak is also the source of your problem. One possibility is that the water heater’s thermostat or heating elements are leaking, which isn’t very likely.
Possibly the T&PR valve, which releases overheated water is leaking. If the water heater’s thermostat malfunctions, the Temperature and Pressure Relief valve discharges overheated water. Above design limitations, the valve bleeds overheated water out the discharge tube. If the thermostat isn’t the problem, consider the tank.
A candy thermometer can be used to check the water temperature, which can scald if set too high. A temperature setting of 120 degrees F is the recommended setting for water temperature. A moderate temperature setting won’t create enough internal pressure to open the T&PR valve.
After passing these checks, the next step is to check the tank for leaks. Once you have identified the leak source, consider replacing your old tank with a newer, energy-efficient model.
A gas water heater’s temperature control occasionally causes trouble. In a gas water heater, a thermocouple device controls the pilot light and the water temperature. An indication of a bad thermocouple is too little or too cold water for the setting. One way to fix this is to have a licensed plumber or service technician replace the thermocouple.
If you have an electric hot water heater, you have to consider the heating elements and the thermostat. Heating elements in electrical units are prone to failure over extended periods of time. Be careful to secure the source of electrical power before testing or withdrawing a thermostat. Most, if not all, thermostats provide years of trouble-free service. Electric water heaters pose a serious electrical hazard, so a qualified service technician might take over at this point.
In review, this article presented some easy to follow steps for troubleshooting a gas or electric water heater. Without a lot of complicated features, water heaters are fairly easy to work on, although they can pose several serious safety hazards. A final word of caution: Water heaters pose electrical shock, scalding, and fire hazards to inexperience home owners. If you are uncomfortable about working around such hazards, repairs should be left in the hands of qualified professionals.