You are enjoying a nice, hot shower while doing your best impression of your favorite band singing its latest number one single. Without warning, your steady stream of comfortably hot water turns ice cold. All you can think of while you’re drying off and getting dressed is that your water heater just failed.
Water heater failure is a normal part of home ownership. A good water heater can work flawlessly for a couple of decades, but even the best heaters don’t last forever. They fail for a number of different reasons. Some failures are easily fixed while others inevitably lead to full heater replacement.
If you ever turn on the hot water tap and only get cold water instead, you may need water heater repair. And if so, Salt Lake City-based Salt City Plumbing recommends consulting a professional. Some water heater repairs can easily be handled by the homeowner. More complicated repairs, including total replacements, require a licensed plumber.
1. Lack of Flame or Power
There are four common causes of water heater failure, beginning with a lack of flame or power. Water heaters operating on natural gas or propane may fail simply because the pilot light has gone out. You don’t need to call a plumber for this one as relighting the pilot is fairly easy. You can do it in just a few seconds.
A water heater that runs on electricity may fail because the circuit it is on has been tripped. If this is the case, you can figure it out just by checking the panel box. Water heaters are generally on their own circuits due to the amount of power they draw. Locate the tripped circuit breaker and flip it back to restore power.
There is one caution here: if you reset the circuit breaker and it trips again, you may have a bigger problem. It is time to call a plumber or electrician.
2. Sediment in the Tank
It’s entirely possible for sediment to build up in the bottom of the tank to the extent that it interferes with the tank’s ability to properly heat water. If this is the case, flushing the tank by opening the emergency overflow valve will do the trick. Just make sure you turn off the electricity and water connection to the tank before you flush. Then refill the tank before turning the power back on.
3. Thermostat Failure
A third common cause of water heater failure lies with the thermostat. The thermostat is the component that regulates water temperature inside the tank. If it stops working correctly, your water might never get hot enough. Note that thermostat replacement is not something you should attempt on your own. It is definitely a job for a professional.
4. Catastrophic Failure
Catastrophic failure is the fourth and final reason you may not be getting any hot water from your faucets. A catastrophic failure occurs when a breach in the tank or water lines makes it impossible to keep enough water in the tank to be of sufficient use.
If catastrophic failure involves the tank itself, it will have to be replaced. If the failure is located in the water lines that feed the tank, they can be addressed separately. Either way, you will know you have catastrophic failure when you see water all over the basement floor.
Being in the shower and losing your hot water is uncomfortable, at bare minimum. Hopefully, the problem is something as minor as a loss of power or pilot flame. But if not, a failed water heater can be an expensive problem to fix.