Hot Water Heater Problems / troubleshooting
An amazing thing about modern life is that we are so used to our luxuries we don’t realize how lucky we are to have them – until we lose them. This is certainly the case with hot water. Nobody gives much thought to how it is created and delivered, until one day the shower runs ice cold. The good news is that troubleshooting your water heater is easy, and just about anyone can do it.
History and Function of Hot Water Heaters
Before we dive into the “how-to” of troubleshooting hot water problems, let’s first consider a bit of history. The next time you are enjoying a wonderful hot shower, make sure to say “thank you” to Edwin Ruud. Ruud invented the first stored hot water system in 1889 when he was living in Norway. He eventually immigrated to the United States and his company, Ruud Manufacturing Company, still makes water heaters today. In many ways, this man singlehandedly made mornings bearable for most of us.
Today, the most common type of water heater used in residences is still the storage system designed by Ruud, although it has obviously been updated many times since 1889. Water is stored in a tank with a capacity of 20 to 80 gallons. There’s an inner tank where the water is held, surrounded by an insulating material to minimize heat loss. The insulation layer is surrounded by thin metal to protect the insulation. This thin outer shell is what you see when looking at a water heater. The water heater is designed to keep the water in the tank at a constant temperature, set on a thermostat at anywhere from 120 to 180 degrees. The U.S. Department of Energy recommends 120 degrees to minimize energy usage and prolong the life of the heating elements of the system, but most manufacturers use a default temperature setting in the 140 to 160 range.[Money Saving Tip – You can easily reset the thermostat to 120 degrees yourself. Click here to read how in our water heater maintenance suggestions].
How does hot water actually get from the tank to your faucet, washer or showerhead? When you turn the hot water faucet on in your house, hot water exits the top of your water heater through the “heat-out” pipe. Cold water is pumped into the heater through a “dip tube” at the bottom of the tank. This keeps the tank filled. The introduction of cold water, however, lowers the overall temperature of the tank. The heating mechanism of the tank will then turn on and heat the water until the desired temperature is reached. With any water heater troubleshooting effort, the first step is to identify the type of water heater you are working with in your home. In 95 percent of cases, you either have a gas or electric water heater. Each works differently, so troubleshooting the cause of your water problem requires two different approaches. Let’s start by looking at the potential gas issues you might experience.
Troubleshooting Gas Water Heaters
Natural gas water heaters are the preferred water heating method for most homes. The reason is simple. Natural gas is our cheapest energy source, which means your winter heating bills will be significantly lower than if you are saddled with an electric water heater. The heating mechanism for a gas water heater can easily be compared to the way a fireplace works. The internal tank is designed with an empty chamber running up the middle, from top to bottom. This is known as the internal chimney. A gas burner is installed at the bottom of the water heater just below the chimney opening, with a gas line connected to the burner. When lit, the burner consumes the gas and sends heat up through the chimney pipe. As the pipe heats up, it heats the surrounding water tank much like a living room fireplace will radiate heat out into the room. If you are having water complications with a system of this type, the issue is typically found in the mechanism regulating when the gas goes on and off. The mechanism is a combination of a thermostat and what is known as a “thermocouple.” If these parts fail, the burner doesn’t burn at all, doesn’t burn hot enough, or doesn’t burn long enough. The end result is either no hot water or much less than you need.
Troubleshooting a gas water heater problem can be tricky. Want to learn more about how to go about diagnosing and repairing a gas water heater?Click Here
electric hot Water Heaters – problems?
When troubleshooting an electric water heater, your focus should be on the same area we looked at with the gas heater – the heating mechanism, which actually consists of two separate elements on most modern electric water heaters. These elements are similar to the electric heating elements you see on electric stoves in older kitchens. But instead of the circular shapes used on a stove, the water heater elements are built in more of a “U” shape, looking somewhat like the moveable piece of a trombone. The heating mechanism is inserted into the water in the tank, where an electric charge causes it – and the water around it – to increase in temperature. When diagnosing electric water heater problems, the first thing to realize is the two heating elements serve very different purposes. One is located at the top of the tank and is used to heat the water when significant amounts are being used in the home. The second is located at the bottom of the tank and heats the cold water that is fed to replace the hot water being pulled out of the top.
Read a full breakdown of potential complications with your electric water heater. Easy as Cake!Click Here
We are a “do-it-yourself” society, but can you really repair a water heater on your own? Absolutely. Neither electric nor gas water heaters are particularly complex and the financial benefits of fixing one instead of replacing it are significant. A new water heater with installation costs can easily run you over $1,000. Most water heater complications can be repaired for less than $100.
Take A Look Around
We’ve created HotWaterHeaterProblems.net so you can easily get the information and guidance you need to troubleshoot your hot water problem. The truth of the matter is that most water heater problems are easily fixable – if you combine a little knowledge with a small amount of effort. With our helpful articles, you can diagnose and repair most issues while saving a healthy chunk of change.