Encountering no hot water when taking your morning shower can be an alarming situation. There could be any number of reasons for an electric or gas water heater failing, including any that are listed here that could lead to this happening in your household.
Thankfully, thermostats and heating elements are inexpensive components to replace; don’t panic.
If you can’t find the cause of your water heater issue in today’s article, the best solution is to contact your local plumbing service. Click here to reach out to reliable plumbing contractors in Alexandria, VA.
1. The Thermostat Is Broken
There can be many causes of your thermostat failing, from dead batteries to simple malfunction. Either way, it is advisable to contact a professional immediately in order to assess and repair it as soon as possible.
Start by ruling out power as the source. Resetting any tripped circuit breakers or replacing any blown fuses should get things back on track. At the same time, you could also remove the upper access panel to inspect the voltage at two screws of your thermostat – if these match up with what is listed on its data plate, your thermostat is likely working just fine.
A thermostat’s digital screen might become dark if its batteries have run out or the thermostat itself has become damaged; an inaccurate temperature display on an electromechanical thermostat, however, might indicate it has failed and needs servicing.
Brushing or using compressed air are easy ways to clean an old electromechanical thermostat’s interior or use canned air (follow safety precautions when using canned air). Digital screens could become dark due to dead batteries or broken parts, causing their display of inaccurate temperatures to become inaccurate – an indicator that it might need servicing.
2. The Heating Element Is Faulty
Heating elements convert electricity to heat. If a ground-out occurs in any part of the heating element, overheating may occur and no longer produce hot water for consumption. This usually occurs with electric models but could also happen to gas units with grounded heating elements.
An effective way of testing heating elements is with a multimeter, available at most home improvement stores. Simply turn off the unit, remove access panels and insulation material as well as plastic covers from all tanks before loosening one of its screws on an element and touching one terminal of a multimeter probe against it; if its needle moves or reading appears correctly then that indicates proper functioning of your element.
If the needle of your multimeter remains unmoved or fails to register a reading, that indicates that an element in your water heater has failed and must be replaced.
3. The Gas Valve Is Faulty
If your water heater makes a noisy but non-heating steam noise, this could be a telltale sign of gas leakage requiring immediate professional service as it poses serious safety and health risks.
If this is the case, turn off the water heater circuit breaker and close all exterior doors and windows before proceeding with any maintenance tasks. Remove access panels, insulation and plastic safety guards from each of the heating elements at the top of your tank’s heater tank without touching wires or electrical terminals; use a non-contact voltage tester to confirm there is no power running through these components.
If there are no 24-volts present at the gas valve terminals, this indicates that something upstream of it (e.g. the printed circuit board) is telling it not to open; this could explain why your pilot light keeps going out or why your water heater takes so long to start working again.
4. The Pilot Light Is Faulty
Pilot lights are small flames used in gas appliances such as water heaters and furnaces to control gas flow if the pilot light goes out, warming a thermocouple which then shuts off gas flow if its energy source goes away.
The thermocouple’s primary role is to protect homes against dangerous gas leaks and explosions. If your pilot light keeps extinguishing itself, there could be something amiss with your system.
The issue may lie with a dirty thermocouple that cannot detect heat. It would be best to shut off your gas valve first, then use a needle to clean out the pilot flame’s orifice with caution according to the manufacturer’s guidelines to prevent further damage to your water heater.
For optimal results, contact an HVAC specialist – their technician can evaluate your gas system to discover why its pilot light keeps going out before fixing it promptly and saving long-term money.