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How to Troubleshoot a Water Heater

Your water heater works hard, constantly churning out hot water to keep your morning showers and relaxing baths enjoyable.

This is often taken for granted, until you have a problem with your water heater. Suddenly you realize quite how heavy you rely on it.

So, what is the solution to a faulty water heater? We have to first determine the problem by looking at the water and the heater itself. Then, you can follow our steps to fix it.

In this article, we’ll show you what to do when your water heater backfires. Whether that’s having no hot water at all, water that’s too hot, the wrong color, or water that’s leaking. Ultimately, we’re going to teach you how to troubleshoot a water heater.

1.  I Have No Hot Water! 

Clearly, having no hot water is a sign that you have a problem with your water heater.

If, when you turn on the hot water and only cold water comes out of your faucets, it suggests a fault with your power, thermostat, or heating elements.

So, first, you’ll need to make sure that the water heater’s circuit breaker hasn’t tripped. Take a look at your service panel, and if it has tripped, switch it off and on again. This should solve the problem.

However, if it hasn’t tripped, you’ll have to reset your high-temperature limit on your water heater. To do that, follow this step-by-step process:

  1. Make sure, before you start, you turn off the breaker to your water heater’s power from the service panel.
  2. Then, remove your access panel, insulation, and safety guard. Don’t touch any electrical terminals or wires for your own safety.
  3. Locate the red high-temperature cutoff reset button. You’ll find it just above your upper thermostat.
  4. Operate this red button.
  5. Reinstall your safety guard, insulation, and access panel.
  6. Turn on your heater’s circuit breaker.

2. My Water Is Coming Out Too Hot

While having no hot water is difficult, having water that is running too hot is just as frustrating. This is especially true if you only have a shower, as you’re unable to endure the high heat. If you have a bathtub, waiting an hour or so for the water to cool down isn’t a feasible long-term solution.

It’s likely that, if you’re running water that is too hot, your water heater’s thermostats are set too high.

To solve this problem, you’ll need to change the settings of your thermostat and adjust it to an appropriate temperature. Follow these steps:

  1. Switch off your water heater’s power in your service panel. Don’t touch anything until the power is off.
  2. Remove the access panel, insulation, and safety guards from each set on your water heater. Don’t touch any wires or electric terminals.
  3. Make sure the power is off by testing it with a non-contact voltage tester.
  4. Now take a look at the heat setting on both of your thermostats. They should display the same temperature.
  5. Use a flathead screwdriver to adjust the temperature. It’s recommended to have a range between 115 and 125 degrees.
  6. Repeat this step for your other thermostat, making sure it displays the same temperature.
  7. Reinstall your safety guards, insulation, and access panels.
  8. Switch on your heater’s circuit breaker.

3. I Have a Leak from My Water Heater

If you’ve noticed a leak coming out of your water heater, make sure you act quickly. If ignored, you can end up with flooring damage and a spread of mold and mildew. The consequences of leaving a leaky water heater could be catastrophic, resulting in a high repair bill and stress levels that are through the roof.

Unfortunately, leaky water heaters don’t solve themselves. They need intervention. With that in mind, here’s how you solve a leaky water heater.

My Water Heater Is Leaking from the Top

Leaky water heaters that are releasing liquid from the top of your mechanism suggests one of two problems. It could be that your cold or hot outlet pipes aren’t fastened properly. Or, it could suggest that your T&P valve isn’t operating correctly.

First, you’ll need to discover where your leak is coming from. So, switch off your water heater. That said, don’t turn off your cold water inlet until you’ve found the location of your leak. This is due to a lack of pressure that could make the leak disappear, only to reappear once everything’s switched on again.

If you can’t see where the leak is, try running your dry hand over the pipes and fittings to feel for any signs of liquid.

If a leak is still not found, you can wrap your pipes and fittings in tissue paper, watching for any moisture seeping through the material.

How to Fix a Leaking Valve

Don’t be intimidated by a leaking valve. In reality, it’s one of the easiest fixes on our list.

All you’ll need to do is tighten the nut that holds the valve in place.

If tightening it doesn’t work and it continues leaking, you’ll need to replace the valve itself.

How to Fix a Leaking T&P Valve (Temperature and Pressure Relief Valve)

Your temperature and pressure relief valve makes sure you’re not getting excessive pressure or water blowing out of your faucets. If it’s not operating as it should, it could lead to overpressurization and a blown thermostat.

You can usually find your T&P valve in the center of your water heater, sitting at the top. Locate it, and investigate for any leaks. If you can see water coming out of the T&P valve, you should replace it. This is straightforward and takes only a few minutes.

Water Heater Leaking from the Bottom

If there is water leaking from the bottom of your water heater, you probably have a build-up of condensation, a fault with your electric heating element gasket, or again, the T&P valve may be releasing too much pressure from inside the tank.

If it’s the entire water heater that is leaking, you’ll need to replace the mechanism, which can be expensive. So, it’s best to check the leak isn’t coming from any of the above first.

How to Fix a Leaking Drain Valve

Your drain valve sits at the bottom of your water heater, and is used for water removal or during routine cleaning.

If you have water leaking out of the opening of the valve or the faucet, you’ll need to fix it before it ends in water damage and a broken water heater.

Make sure the valve is totally closed off, first. It seems obvious, but this does happen, and it’s a simple fix. Turn it as tight as you can.

If the leak remains, follow these steps to replace your valve:

  1. Use a garden hose to connect the valve outdoors, so the water can drain outside of your home.
  2. Turn off the water inlet for the tank, which you can find at the top of your water heater on the cold water line.
  3. Open the drain valve by turning it counterclockwise, and allow your tank to drain.
  4. After the tank has been emptied, turn the valve counterclockwise to remove it.
  5. Use Teflon or joint compound to wrap the threads of your replacement drain valve.
  6. Screw the new valve into position manually as tight as you can.
  7. Then, use a wrench to tighten it another half a turn, or until it’s fixed in place.

4. My Water Is a Dirty/Rusty Color

Water should be transparent. If your water is coming out of your taps a dirty, rusty color, there’s clearly a problem. This is usually down to a corroded anode rod.

Ignoring this leads to water contamination, and a leaking water heater, which will then need to be replaced. So, you’ll need to act quickly and replace your anode rod:

  1. First, switch off all the power to your water. This includes the cold water supply line.
  2. Then, find your anode rod. It’s usually located on the top of your water heater, just to the side.
  3. Drain around 10 percent of the water in your tank using a garden hose. Ensure the side the water is exiting is in the garden or outside.
  4. Allow your tank to cool.
  5. Now, remove your anode rod using a boxed end wrench or a socket. Avoid using solutions like Liquid Wrench on your water heater’s parts, as this could contaminate your water and end in sickness.
  6. Install the new anode rod, ensuring the threads are pointed downwards. Wrap them in plumber’s tape or joint compound.
  7. Install the new rod, turning it clockwise manually, until it cannot be turned anymore.
  8. Use a socket wrench to finish, tightening it another half a turn. Make sure the water heater isn’t twisting or turning whilst you’re doing this.

Water heater problems can be a stressful affair. However, you now have comprehensive knowledge of what to do when you need to troubleshoot a water heater. If you’ve tried these solutions and you’re still having problems, or you would rather leave it to a professional, you can always contact us at ProSkill Services!

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