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Hot Water Heater Not Working? Common Issues That Require Professional Help

Did you know that every year, 8% of US households swap their old water heaters with a brand new one? In actual numbers, that's about 7 to 7.8 million water heater replacements! This shows how vital hot water is to our daily lives. In fact, we use water heaters so much that it accounts for 19% of the total residential energy use in the US!

In the Austin, Texas area alone, a hot water replacement averages $1,200! This is higher than the national average, and so preventative maintenance is important. Even taking all the proper steps, there will come a time when water heater repair is necessary. Hot water heaters last a long time, but a lot can happen to them at that time. Problems include sediment building up inside the tank to flood water, damaging internal components. All the valves and pipes on the water heater and running to the heater can have issues that will demand repair.

A water heater not working properly can be a big nuisance to anyone. After all, not having hot water for a morning shower can make you late for school or work. But a faulty water heater can cause bigger problems, including leaks and even burns.

The question is, what exactly are the water heater issues that you should leave to experts? Is there anything you can do first before you give professional plumbers a call for water heater repair or replacement?

Water Comes Out of the Tank or Heating Unit

Every year, the average household wastes about 10,000 gallons of water due to water leaks. That's about half of the water in average-sized swimming pools!

Faucets and toilet tanks are often the culprits, but the water heater itself may also be leaking. One solid sign that points to this is a spike in your water bills. Unless you always get visitors to your house, then a rise in your water usage may indicate a leaky tank.

You can troubleshoot a water heater leak by inspecting the tank or the heating unit for moisture. Be sure to turn off the electrical or gas supply and then let the tank cool down first. Check for water seeping out of or pooling down at the bottom of the equipment.

If there's a considerable amount of water coming out of the unit, call your local plumbers right away. Leaks are water heater problems that often indicate corrosion. Left unaddressed, the degraded parts can crumble and allow even more water to flow out. Water damage is expensive and can cause structural issues as well as mold. A water heater can leak from anywhere, either the tank or the pipes.

One thing you really don’t want is standing water around your water heater. For tankless models, the water leaking on to the wall could lead to rot or mold growth. These can be big problems to take care of, and mold can even make you and your family sick.

If there's too much internal damage to the unit, it may be best to get a replacement water heater.

Too Little Water Comes Out of Faucets and Showerheads

If you rely on local water facilities, then you likely have hard water like nine in 10 US homes do.

Although hard water isn't a health concern, it contains a lot of sediments. Over time, these minerals, such as magnesium and calcium, will harden at the bottom of the water tank. In tankless water heaters, the buildup can occur in the water lines.

Either way, these mineral deposits can block the flow of water and reduce water pressure. The mineral formation can also kill your water heater's heating efficiency. The deposits can act as insulation, so the unit can't heat the water as it should.

This then leads to the water heater compensating by using more energy. This extra stress can lead to more water heater problems, like inefficient heating. The longer this goes on, the shorter the life span of your water heater.

If you've noticed that there's too little water coming out of your fixtures, it's time to ring up plumbing pros. They have the equipment to flush out these clog-causing sediments. They'll also check for other possible culprits causing the reduced water flow.

The Water Is Discolored or Smells

If you notice any change in the quality of the hot water you are getting, that is a definite sign of trouble. If the water is darker or yellowed, it could mean that your water heater needs replacement or repair. If the water has an unusual odor but looks fine, that is also a sign that something is wrong inside your water heater.

A lot of the time, this is caused by a build-up of sediment and debris inside the water heater. It can also be caused by corrosion on the pipes around the heater or inside of it. Either way, this is something that will demand immediate repair or replacement.

Age of Your Water Heater

Water heaters can last for a long time. Most don’t have any trouble for the first ten years or more of their life. If you have an old water heater, you should pay very close attention to it. Once the first ten years of its life has passed, problems can manifest at any time.

Water heater repair can keep an old water heater working right for a long time. This is also where preventative maintenance comes in. The more you take care of your water heater when it isn’t having problems, the longer the water heater will last.

Fluctuating Water Temperature

Varying levels of water pressure can lead to changes in water temperature. This can occur when several faucets and showers are running at the same time. In some cases, this is normal, but it can also indicate that you have a clogged tank or water lines.

If this still happens even if you're the only one using water, then you may have a faulty thermostat. A worn heating element in the water heater can also be a culprit. Either way, contact your friendly local plumbers to inspect the water heater.

Fluctuating water temperature isn't only inconvenient – it can also be a safety hazard. For one, a malfunctioning water heater can heat up the water excessively. This can result in scald burns that may be severe enough to warrant medical attention.

Keep in mind that 85% of all scald burns in the US occur in homes. This should be enough reason for you to get those hot water heater problems fixed ASAP!

No Hot Water at All

If you're not getting any hot water at all, check the heating power supply first. For gas heaters, see if the pilot light is lit and that the burner is emitting flames. For electric heaters, check the circuit breaker as it might have tripped.

If all these are in order but you still don't get any hot water, then it's time to call the plumbing pros. You may have a dead thermostat or a defective internal heating element. Whatever the cause is, reliable plumbers will get the bottom of your water heater issues.

Strange Noises or Rumbling

If your hot water heater is making rumbling or strange noises, it could be a clog. Getting a clog inside the pipes around the heater can cause back pressure and damage to the unit. A plumber offering water heater repair services will be able to take care of such problems for you.

It could mean other problems are happening as well. Unless you have experience in dealing with these issues, checking for all the possible causes can be difficult. You don’t want to let a problem continue as that could lead to an expensive water heater replacement.

Lack of Water Pressure

This is also called a lack of water flow, because not as much water is coming out as there should be. The change will be noticeable, as the pressure of the water will change. If you notice that you have reduced pressure in all your faucets, it might be the water heater having trouble.

Clogged pipes and other causes of reduced water pressure aren’t likely to affect every faucet in a house or business. If it is a catastrophic clog and not the water heater, you will still need to find a plumber. Either problem can be taken care of by a professional without you having any further issues.

Stressed Out Over a Water Heater Not Working? Call the Pros Now

There you have it, the ultimate list of the most likely culprits behind a water heater not working. As you can see, most of these are best left in the hands of plumbing pros as they can be too complex to DIY. Besides, the last thing you want is to put your safety and wellbeing at risk.

Especially if you’re dealing with large leaks, which can lead to indoor flooding. It’s best to ring up your local plumbing experts right away. They’re better equipped to handle and repair these water heater issues.

Ready to get that busted water heater up and running again? Then please get in touch with us now and request a job estimate! We’ll be happy to look at your faulty water heater and get it fixed ASAP.

Mr. Rooter iconAbout the Author: Brett Bidwell, Mr. Rooter Plumbing of Austin

Brett has been a trusted Mr. Rooter owner of Mr. Rooter Plumbing of Austin since 2012. With over 8 years to back him, Brett has experience with a wide range of plumbing related solutions and systems. He and his team specialize in emergency plumbing, drain cleaning, and more.

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