Water heater troubleshooting in 5 simple steps

Water heater troubleshooting in 5 simple steps

While there's never a good time to have problems with your home's water heater, winter is certainly the worst time to lose hot water. Fortunately, water heater troubleshooting doesn't require a great deal of plumbing expertise.

Here are five simple steps to help you decide whether you need to call a professional plumber.

1. The basics

The most basic do-it-yourself check for an electric water heater is confirming the electrical breaker is on. If you have young children or family members who sometimes meddle with home equipment, they may have turned the breaker off. Once you've turned it on again, it will take several minutes for hot water to return.

Gas water heaters need the pilot light to be lit in order to operate properly. Newer heaters with automatic lighting won't present this problem, but older models require manual lighting. Because you are dealing with gas and an open flame, proceed with extreme caution and follow system instructions to the letter, or call for professional help.

2. Check the thermostat

To check an electric heater's thermostat, you'll have to take out the side panel to gauge the temperature. High-voltage wiring is present in this area, so proceed carefully. The thermostat should read at least 120° F.

A gas water heater's thermostat is easier to check. Make sure the mark is also at 120° F before continuing with your troubleshooting.

3. Take stock of the dip tube

The dip tube — a pipe connected to the top of most water heaters — forces cold water to the bottom of the tank and hot water to your shower. When a dip tube breaks, hot water is in short supply. This water heater troubleshooting step is complex because it may require a look inside the tank. If you know the dip tube is broken, you've probably solved the problem plaguing your heater.

4. Identify any leaks

A leaking water heater presents multiple problems. First, you will experience a shortage of hot water when you are trying to enjoy a shower. Second, leaks can damage your home's foundation, depending on the location of the heater and the amount of water that has escaped. Contact a professional plumber immediately to address this problem.

5. Check water heater elements

An element tester can confirm whether current is running through the elements of your water heater. Only perform this test if you are comfortable handling electrical equipment. Turn off the power and wait for the water to cool. Then remove the access panel and disconnect the wires holding the terminals in place. Connecting the element tester's red lead to one terminal and the black lead to the other, you can see whether current is flowing. No movement on the tester or readings of zero indicate there is no current.

Homeowners in the Atlanta area and beyond often are baffled when it comes to water heater problems. If you're in this position, contact RooterPLUS! to handle the job both quickly and affordably.

Image source: Wikimedia Commons

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4.7 Stars (5020 Reviews)

Robert came out quickly and did a fantastic job. He found the leak quickly and did a quality repair to a poorly joined pipe by the builder. I am very pleased with the work provided. He went the extra mile and also replaced the pine straw that was removed for the repair. Work was NOT cheap but... Robert came out quickly and did a fantastic job. He found the leak quickly and did a quality repair to a poorly joined pipe by the builder. I am very pleased with the work provided. He went the extra mile and also replaced the pine straw that was removed for the repair. Work was NOT cheap but I got what I needed - immediate response and repair. I recommend if you are in a pinch.
Great service and work done really good. Steven E. hands down the best. The way he works with the machine, makes it look easy. He explained every detail about the job we was going to do. And all his knowledge is awesome. I will recommend him and the company to anyone needing service at their... Great service and work done really good. Steven E. hands down the best. The way he works with the machine, makes it look easy. He explained every detail about the job we was going to do. And all his knowledge is awesome. I will recommend him and the company to anyone needing service at their homes. Thank You Steven!
Steven was very knowledgeable and educated us on septic tanks. We luckily had gravel drainage so he recommended cleaning out our septic tank completely and putting biodegratible in the drainage field. He was here from 4:00-6:30 and explained everything to my husband. In the past when we had our... Steven was very knowledgeable and educated us on septic tanks. We luckily had gravel drainage so he recommended cleaning out our septic tank completely and putting biodegratible in the drainage field. He was here from 4:00-6:30 and explained everything to my husband. In the past when we had our septic tank pumped they did it incorrectly. I feel confident in Steven’s work and we have a 12 month guarantee. It was costly but for what he did worth every penny. Thank you Steven for your expertise job.
Steven was so awesome and very knowledgeable of the system that he taught me a lot. He did a good job alone and I would recommend and already did to someone else. I like the fact he drove a long way and there was no charge for him to come out! I will use him again in another 4-5 years if he... Steven was so awesome and very knowledgeable of the system that he taught me a lot. He did a good job alone and I would recommend and already did to someone else. I like the fact he drove a long way and there was no charge for him to come out! I will use him again in another 4-5 years if he still with the company! Thanks Steven again!
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Great customer experience, with experienced staff. I called the office for water leakage on Sunday morning and they schedule me with Technician arrival in 30 mins. Jason reached on time, investigate the problem and able to find the source of leak in few minutes, which was definitely tricky and I... Great customer experience, with experienced staff. I called the office for water leakage on Sunday morning and they schedule me with Technician arrival in 30 mins. Jason reached on time, investigate the problem and able to find the source of leak in few minutes, which was definitely tricky and I believe only an expert eye like Jason can capture it. He walked me over the issue, fixed it and saved my Sunday morning. RooterPLUS is on my speed dial now for any plumbing issues.
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