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Water Heater Troubleshooting, A Step By Step Guide

That's right, with our water heater troubleshooting guide you can find and repair most of the common problems. A plumber will typically cost around $100/hour. This guide can help you to keep that money! We will walk you through the most common complaints concerning hot water in the home.

**NOTE** Only you can assess your ability to perform this task. This is a guide and cannot provide all of the details for every situation.

Does Your Water Smell Bad?

A common water heater troubleshooting problem is that the water smells like rotten eggs. This is more common in homes that use a well or pond to supply their water.

The smell occurs when hydrogen combines with sulfur and bacteria in the water.

Hydrogen is given off by the anode rod in the water heater while sulfur and bacteria are in the water supply.

There are two things that can be done to minimize this. First, the magnesium anode rod on the water heater can be replaced with an aluminum one. This will minimize the hydrogen that is formed in the tank. The second thing is to add a chlorination system to the home's water supply. This will kill the bacteria that is in the supply water.

Does It Take Too Long To Get Hot Water Out Of The Tap?

A common complaint associated with the home's hot water system is that it is cold at first. This can occur with storage type systems and usually is noticed at the fixture that is furthest from the tank.

This occurs because the water that is in the pipe, from the tank to the fixture, cools off as it sits in the pipe. If hot water has not been used for a while, all the water in that line must go through the fixture before hot water is available.

This situation can be cured by installing a recirculation pump. The pump circulates the water through the pipe and back to the tank where it is heated. The water in the pipe stays hot and is available as soon as the fixture is turned on.

Is Your Water Heater Leaking?

Another common water heater troubleshooting problem is leaking. This leaking typically can come from the safety relief valve, drain valve, or the tank itself.

If the leak is from the temperature/pressure relief valve, the valve can be easily replaced. It is a simple matter of draining the tank, removing the pipe attached to the valve, and unscrewing the valve from the tank. Screw the new valve on the tank, reattach the pipe to the valve outlet, and refill the tank.

If the leak is from the drain valve it can be replaced in much the same way as the safety valve.

If the leak appears to be from the tank, the heater will need to be replaced.

Do You Run Out Of Hot Water?

Insufficient amount of hot water is another common water heater troubleshooting complaint. If the water heater is new, this can be caused by too small of a tank or improper installation.

If your family has grown and your tank is too small now, you can help the situation by installing a thermostatic mixing valve and set your water tank temperature higher. The typical water heater setting should be less than 120 degrees F but, by installing this blending valve, you can set it higher (to about 140 to 150 degrees) and the valve will mix cold water with this higher temperature water to provide the desired temperature at the outlet. You will use less water from the tank and so effectively increase its size.

If the unit is older, this situation can be caused by a buildup of sediment in the tank. This can usually be cured through routine maintenance.

If the routine maintenance does not cure the problem, the unit may need replaced. A general rule of thumb is that 1/2 inch of sediment in the tank can require 70% more fuel to heat the water.

The final cause of insufficient hot water can be due to the heater itself not working properly. For a gas water heater this can be caused by a bad gas control or the pilot going out. The pilot could go out due to improper venting, dirty pilot assembly, or a defective thermocouple.

On an electric water heater, insufficient hot water could be caused by the breaker being off, high temperature limit, a bad thermostat, or a bad element.

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