Troubleshooting Tips for Common Water Heater Issues
Your water heater is the unsung hero of your home, silently providing hot water for showers, dishes, and laundry. Like any appliance, water heaters require upkeep and are likely to run into performance issues at some point. Navigating common water heater problems doesn’t have to be a hassle, though.
Whether you have a traditional tank-style or a modern tankless water heater, understanding common problems and knowing when to DIY troubleshoot or call in professional help is key. Apex Plumbing has you covered!
Keep reading to learn about common hot water issues in the Clearwater area, practical troubleshooting tips, and insights into when it’s time to seek assistance from a qualified plumber.
Common Problems with Traditional Tank-Style Water Heaters
No Hot Water
One of the most frustrating issues a homeowner can face is a sudden lack of hot water. If you have a tank-style water heater, the issue may lie in a faulty pilot light or a thermostat glitch. Before calling a plumber, try these steps:
- Relight the Pilot Light. Locate the pilot light access panel and check if the pilot light has gone out. To relight it, follow the manufacturer’s guidelines carefully. You can also consult the user manual or contact the manufacturer. Remember, safety comes first. If relighting the pilot light is outside of your comfort zone, always consult with a professional to ensure the light is handled appropriately.
- Check the Thermostat Settings. Make sure that the thermostat is set at an appropriate temperature (usually around 120 degrees). Sometimes slight adjustments can solve the problem and restore hot water.
Never take risks when you lose hot water suddenly. If you smell gas or encounter any uncertainty while troubleshooting, immediately turn off the gas supply and call a professional.
A water heater tank leak is a red flag that demands immediate attention. A leak might occur due to tank corrosion, sediment buildup, loose parts and connections, excessive water pressure and old age. Determining the cause and safely repairing a water leak is best handled by a plumber to prevent further damage. While you wait for help to arrive, take these preliminary steps:
- Turn Off the Water Supply. Locate the shut-off valve connected to the water heater and close it to stop the flow of water. We recommend making sure that everyone in your home knows how to locate and operate the water shutoff valve in case of emergencies like a tank leak.
- Address Electrical Safety. If the leaking water is near electrical appliances or outlets, safely turn off the electricity in that area to prevent any hazards. Once electrical hazards are handled, clear the area around the tank to prevent damage to your items and to clear a workspace.
Even a small leak can quickly escalate. As soon as you notice signs of a water tank leak, it’s important to call for help. The faster a plumber is on the scene, the faster you can get back to comfort.
Seeing cloudy or discolored hot water in the shower or sink can be alarming. This water discoloration is often caused by sediment buildup in the hot water tank. Here’s what you can do:
- Tank Flushing. Flushing the water heater tank helps clear out sediment and mineral buildup. Some homeowners choose to flush the water tank themselves, while others schedule service with a plumber. If you flush the tank, be sure to refer to the water heater manual for specific instructions.
- Consider Professional Maintenance. Tank water heaters should be flushed about every six months. Scheduling preventative water heater maintenance is a hassle-free way to keep your tank clean and extend the lifespan of your unit.
Rust-colored water sometimes indicates internal water heater corrosion or failing anode rod. If the hot water is still discolored after flushing the tank, contact a plumber to determine if the water heater needs to be replaced.
Common Tankless Water Heater Problems
Tankless water heaters are popular for their endless supply of hot water. They still have their limitations, though. Running hot water in multiple places may exceed the water heater’s capacity and cause it to shut down. Here are some ways to fix and prevent overloading:
- Reset the Unit. If your tankless unit shuts down or it’s not providing enough hot water, the answer may be as simple as resetting it. Disconnect the unit from the power source or shut off the breaker, wait 30 seconds, and turn the power back.
- Consider an Upgrade. If your unit is frequently overloaded, it may not be capable of supplying enough hot water for your home. Installing a second tankless unit or upgrading to a larger water heater may be your best option.
Having sufficient hot water in your home is a must. If you are concerned that your water heater can’t meet your home’s hot water demands, work with a plumber to determine if your current unit needs to be repaired or supplemented with additional units.
Cold Water Sandwich
One of the most common problems with tankless units is sudden blasts of cold water. This phenomenon is often called a hot or cold water sandwich and is most evident (and frustrating) in the shower. Here are some steps to resolve the issue:
- Adjust the Flow Rate. Start by increasing the flow rate slightly. Sometimes, this can minimize the temperature fluctuations that cause cold bursts between hot water flow.
- Utilize Recirculation Systems. If you experience cold bursts frequently, consider installing a recirculation system. They work by continuously moving hot water through pipes to reduce the chances of cold water pockets forming.
While an isolated cold water burst doesn’t constitute an emergency, multiple incidents may be cause for concern. A professional plumber can assess the unit for any underlying technical faults and recommend the best next steps.
Mineral or Sediment Buildup
Like tank water heaters, tankless units are susceptible to calcium and lime buildup. How often you need to treat the buildup will depend on how hard the water is in your home. Follow these steps to mitigate the issue:
- Descale the Unit. Treating buildup in tankless units looks a bit different than in tank units. Using white vinegar or a descaling solution designed for tankless heaters, flush the system to remove mineral deposits. Consult the manufacturer’s guidelines for the appropriate descaling procedure.
- Schedule Regular Maintenance. Treating sediment and mineral buildup should always be part of your tankless maintenance. Signing up for a plumbing maintenance program ensures a professional regularly inspects your water heater.
Hard water in your home can take a toll on your tankless unit and necessitate frequent descaling. Consider installing a water-softening system to reduce mineral buildup and prolong the lifespan of your unit.
When to Call a Plumber to Repair Your Water Heater
While DIY troubleshooting is beneficial, you should never work outside your comfort zone. Certain signs indicate it’s time to bring in a professional plumber for water heater repair:
- Major Leaks
- No Hot Water Despite Troubleshooting
- Unusual Noises
- Visible Rust or Corrosion
Professional intervention is a matter of safety of security. Water heaters involve gas, electricity, or both, which can pose risks if mishandled. Professional plumbers are trained and licensed to work on tank and tankless units with care and expertise.
Some issues are too complex for DIY solutions. Electrical faults, extensive leaks, and internal component failures often require specialized equipment to fix. Plumbers can also assess the condition of the water heater and advise on repair or replacement options. Sometimes, investing in a new unit is more cost-effective than constant repairs.
Apex Plumbing Has Your Hot Water Needs Covered
Knowing how to identify and address common hot water issues can save you from unexpected cold showers or potential property damage. But remember, while DIY troubleshooting can solve many problems, some issues require professional expertise.
Regular maintenance, prompt repairs, and seeking professional help when needed can prolong your water heater’s life and ensure uninterrupted hot water for your household. When in doubt, stay proactive and contact our team online or call us 24/7 at (727) 285-8559 for service in and around Clearwater! No matter the problem, we are here to keep your water heater running at its best.