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How to Troubleshoot a Water Heater

How to Troubleshoot a Water Heater

Your water heater is the MVP of all household appliances. You have it to thank for your hot morning showers and relaxing bubble baths.

We often take hot water for granted, but as soon as there’s a problem with your water heater, you realize how much you need it to work properly.

So, what can you do next time your water heater isn’t working as it should? This article will shine a light on the common issues of a faulty water heater, the symptoms of each, and what you should do to troubleshoot a water heater.

I Have No Hot Water

We’ll start at the most obvious sign that there’s something wrong with your water heater: no hot water.

If you’ve turned on your tap and the water is coming out stone-cold, you likely have an issue with one of the following:

  • Your power
  • Your thermostat
  • Your heating elements

First thing’s first, you’ll need to make sure the water heater’s circuit breaker hasn’t tripped. Take a look at the service panel, and if it has tripped, switch it off and on again.

However, if the heater’s breaker is still on and didn’t trip, you’ll need to attempt resetting the high-temperature limit on the water heater.

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To do that, follow these steps:

  1. First, switch off the breaker to the water heater’s power in your service panel.
  2. Look at the upper heating element on the water heater and remove the access panel.
  3. Take off the insulation and safety guard. Make sure you don’t touch any wires or electrical terminals.
  4. You’ll see the high-temperature cutoff reset button, which is just above the upper thermostat. This is a red button which you’ll now need to press.
  5. Reinstall the safety guard, insulation, and access panel.
  6. Power up the heater’s circuit breaker.

My Water Is Too Hot

Having water that is too hot is almost as tricky as having no hot water at all. It poses a risk of burning yourself and means you’ll have to wait for your water to cool down naturally. If you only have a shower, you’re unable to wash.

Luckily, we do have steps you can follow to fix the issue. It’s probably down to your water heater’s thermostats being set too high.

First, you’ll need to ensure it’s set to an appropriate temperature. So, you’ll need to check the thermostat’s settings. To do this, follow these steps:

  1. Switch off your power to the water heater in the service panel. Make sure you do this before touching anything else.
  2. Take off the access panel, insulation, and the safety guard from every heating set on the water heater. Ensure you do not touch any electrical terminals or wires.
  3. You’ll need to test to make sure the power is totally off. Do not skip this step. It can be a pain, but for your safety, we need to ensure the power is switched off. Test with a non-contact voltage tester.
  4. The next step is to monitor the heat setting on both your thermostats, which should display the same temperature. We recommend having a setting between 115 and 125 degrees.
  5. Use a flathead screwdriver to amend the settings,
  6. Repeat this step for the other thermostat, ensuring they read the same temperature.
  7. Now, reinstall each part’s safety guard, insulation, and access panels.
  8. Power up the heater’s circuit breaker.

My Water Heater Is Leaking

There’s a lot of panic surrounding leaky water heaters, and for a valid reason. When your water heater is leaking, you’ll need to act quickly.

Sure, it can seem like an inconvenience rather than a problem, but if your water heater leaks, even the tiniest amount of water can damage your flooring, sub-floors, and your walls. It can lead to high repair bills and damage to your possessions, not to mention mold and mildew.

Leaky water heaters don’t solve themselves. So, with that in mind, here’s what you do to fix a leaking water heater.

Water Heater Leaking from The Top

Water that leaks from the top of your water heater suggests a few problems. It could be that the cold inlet or hot outlet pipes aren’t tight enough. Or it may be that your temperature and pressure (T&P) valve has failed.

You’ll need first to discover the source of the problem. Once determined, you can use our steps to fix it.

To find out why your water heater is leaking, you’ll need first to turn off your water heater. Don’t switch off your cold water inlet until you’ve found the leak because the leak could stop if it doesn’t have enough pressure. That means you may never see the location of your leak.

Try running a dry hand over the pipes and fittings if you can’t see where the leak is.

If you still can’t see the leak, wrap the pipes and fittings with tissue paper, watching for any liquid absorption.

How to Fix a Leaking Valve

A leaky valve is a super simple fix. You need only tighten the nut holding the valve in place.

If this doesn’t work and the leak gets worse, however, replace the valve altogether.

How to Fix a Leaking T&P Valve

You can find the T&P valve sitting on the top of your water heater. Its role is to add safety, ensuring that there’s not an excessive amount of pressure or water that could lead to over pressurization and thermostat breakage.

Once you’ve found your T&P valve (located at the top of your water heater in the center), it’s safer to replace the valve altogether. Replacing it is a simple procedure and takes little time.

Water Heater Leaking from the Bottom

Generally, if your water heater is releasing liquid from the bottom, it’s due to condensation, a faulty electric heating element gasket, or the T&P valve opening to remove too much pressure inside your tank.

In extreme cases, it could be that your actual water tank is leaking. If this is the case, the only solution is to replace your water heater altogether. However, it’s far more likely to be one of the above problems.

How to Fix a Leaking Drain Valve

Located at the bottom of the water heater, you’ll see a drain. This drain is used to empty the water heater before removal, or during routine maintenance and cleaning.

If you have a leaky drain valve in your water heater, you’ll see water dripping out of the opening or around the tap itself.

First, check that the valve is completely closed. A lot of times, it’s not turned clockwise enough. If you feel it’s loose, try to turn it, so it’s shut off entirely.

If this doesn’t stop the leak, you’ll probably need to replace the valve.

To replace a leaking drain valve:

  1. Connect a water hose between the drain and somewhere outdoors.
  2. Switch off the water inlet for the tank (which is found at the top of the water heater on the cold water line).
  3. Open the drain valve, allowing the tank to empty.
  4. After draining, turn the valve counterclockwise to remove it.
  5. Use plumber’s tape (Teflon) or joint compound to wrap the threads of the replacement drain valve.
  6. Install the new valve by screwing it into the opening until it’s as tight as you can manage with your hand.
  7. Then, use a wrench to tighten it half a turn, or until it’s tightly in place.

My Water Is Coming Out a Rusty or Dirty Color

The final water heater problem you can troubleshoot is dirty, rusty-colored water. This often suggests that the anode rod has corroded. Sometimes, it can point toward a corroded water heater in its entirety.

If ignored, the water heater will end up needing replacing, as it will eventually start leaking. The solution is simple: you’ll need to replace the anode rod.

  1. Turn off the power to your water. This includes the cold water supply line.
  2. Find your anode rod. This is usually on the top of your water heater, sitting on the side. Sometimes, it can be directly connected to your hot water outlet line. It’s always best to use your manual, if you have one, as it will contain a diagram for easy finding.
  3. Now, drain some of the water out of your tank. Connect an ordinary hose to your drain outlet (as we covered before) and have it leading somewhere outdoors. Drain about 10 percent of the tank. If, however, your anode rod is side-mounted, drain a little more.
  4. Let the tank cool off.
  5. Remove the anode rod with a boxed end wrench or socket. Make note not to use solutions like Liquid Wrench on your water heater components. They could contaminate and infect your hot water. Plus, never bang on parts of your water heater. The tank liner damages easily.
  6. Remember that if your anode rod is corroded with sediment and too big to lift out of your water tank, it’s still working. At this point, you’ll need to reinstall your existing anode rod.
  7. If not, now’s the time to install your new anode rod. Make sure the threads are pointed downwards, and then wrap them with plumber’s tape or cover them with joint compound.
  8. Insert the new rod. Turn it clockwise by hand until it can no longer be turned manually.
  9. Tighten it using your socket wrench. Another ½ turn will do it. Don’t let your water heater twist while you’re doing this.

Your water heater is important, you need to keep it healthy with routine plumbing maintenance checks. You’re now armed with the information to diagnose and cure your water heater issue, but feel free to contact us at Adeedo for professional help!

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