Common Water Heater Problems and Solutions

11 Common Water Heater Problems and Solutions

The most surprising thing about water heater problems is that you can fix them without calling a repair service.

Yes, even though problems with leaks and rusty water sound like a big headache, but often all it takes is a simple adjustment of a knob or pressing a button.

Let’s go through 10 common water heater problems and how to tackle them.

1- No Hot Water

No Hot Water
No Hot Water

The first, of course, was “No Hot Water” coming from the water heater

A lack of power can cause no hot water from your water heater, a tripped safety switch, or malfunctioning heating elements.

You can diagnose the issues through the following steps:

  1. Check the Circuit Breaker: Locate your water heater’s breaker in the electrical panel. If it’s tripped (switched to the “OFF” position), turn it completely off and then back on (usually by flipping the switch).
  1. Reset the High-Temperature Limit Switch: If the breaker isn’t tripped, the problem might be a tripped high-temperature limit switch. Before proceeding, turn off the water heater’s power at the breaker box. Find the water heater’s access panel and locate the reset button, typically red. Press this button to reset the switch.

2- Not enough water

Not enough water
Not enough water

Inadequate water is another drag.

Here’s what might be going on:

  • Your water heater might be on the small side. There is a good chance it isn’t a giant hot water thermos for the house. If your family uses hot water, the thermos might not be big enough to keep up with everyone’s showers and dishes.
  • The fix: Try taking shorter showers, installing those nifty low-flow showerheads, or spreading laundry and dishwasher loads throughout the day.
  • Tip: A good rule of thumb is that a water heater can provide about 75% of its total capacity in hot water. A 40-gallon heater should be enough for a household with 30 gallons of hot water.
  • Something might be wrong with the heater itself: If your water heater isn’t too small and you’ve noticed a sudden drop in hot water, it could be an internal issue.
  • Signs of trouble: Constantly lukewarm water during a shower might mean the upper heating element is out. Running out of hot water quickly could be the lower element.
  • The fix: This is a job for a professional plumber. They can diagnose the problem, replace the faulty parts, or recommend a new water heater.

3- Too much Hot Water

Too much Hot Water
Too much Hot Water

Having extremely hot water usually means the dials on your water heater are cranked up a bit too high. Here’s what you need to do:

✔ Flip the switch that controls your water heater to “OFF” at the main electrical panel.

✔ Find the water heater itself. It’s usually a big tank in a utility room or garage. There will be a panel you can unscrew to see the controls inside.

✔ Inside, you’ll likely see two dials. These are the thermostats. Just turn them down a bit – 120 degrees Fahrenheit (or 49 degrees Celsius) is a safe and comfortable temperature for most homes. Make sure to use a flathead screwdriver to adjust the dials if needed.

✔ Pop the panel back on, head back to the electrical panel, and flip the switch back to “ON.” Now, you will have a nice, warm shower.

4- Too much Noise

Too much Noise
Too much Noise

If your water heater makes rumbling, popping, or whining sounds, it could mean the water inside is boiling. This can happen because of sediment buildup at the bottom, like tiny rocks clogging things up.

Here’s how you can quiet it down:

✔ ️ First things first, shut off the water heater’s power and water supply. Like flipping a switch and turning off a faucet.

✔ ️ To remove hot water and dirt or particles from your water heater, connect a garden hose to the valve at the bottom. Make sure one end of the hose is inside, and the other end is outside. Then, open two valves: one near the top, called the pressure relief valve, and the other at the bottom, called the drain valve. This will let the water and dirt flow out easily.

✔ Once everything’s drained, shut those valves and remove the hose.

✔ Now you can turn the power and water supply back on, and your water heater should be nice and quiet again.

If you’re uncomfortable doing this yourself, call a repair service to get it checked out.

5- Rust colored water 

Rust colored water 
Rust colored water

If your tap water starts looking brown, yellow, or red, it could mean your water heater tank has some rust inside.

To fix tinted water, get a plumber to switch out the anode rod in your tank’s water heater. This rod, sitting smack dab in the middle of the tank, rusts faster than the tank itself. It’s like a magnet for corrosive oxygen, drawing it away from your water tanker.

6- Foul Odor

Foul Odor
Foul Odor

Another problem could be a foul odor emanating from your toilet. The culprit behind this stench might be a chemical reaction between the anode rod in your water heater and bacteria in your tank. 

These anode rods are installed to attract corrosion, protecting your water heater from rust. However, the interaction between the anode rod and certain bacteria can create a gas with a strong rotten egg smell. This odor can permeate your bathroom and potentially waft throughout your house.  

The best solution is to eliminate this problem by flushing your toilet tank with a hydrogen peroxide solution, which can effectively kill the bacteria causing the issue.

7- Leakage in Cold Water Inlet

Leakage in Cold Water Inlet
Leakage in Cold Water Inlet

If you see a whole pool out at the top, it could be coming from the cold water inlet valve. This valve is the pipe that brings fresh water into the heater and is situated right at the top of the water heater. 

All you have to do is first turn off the water supply to the heater completely. Then, grab a wrench and tighten the connection on the inlet valve by turning it clockwise, like you’re screwing on a lid. Once done, turn on the water supply and dry off the top area. You hopefully won’t witness leakage again.

8- Leaking coming from the sides

Leaking coming from the sides
Leaking coming from the sides

A leak on the side of your water heater likely means the tank itself is corrupted or damaged. This leak will typically trickle out from a specific spot, like a crack or hole. Unfortunately, there’s no safe way to fix a tank with corrosion or damage. In this case, your only option is to replace the entire water heater.

9- Water vapor & Gas coming out 

Water vapor & Gas coming out 
Water vapor & Gas coming out

If your water heater leaks moisture, spreading evenly across the outer surface of the tank, then you don’t have to worry much about it.

This act is harmless. However, too much excess water can damage the floor around the water heater.

If you notice central condensation on your water heater, here are two steps you can take:

  1. Lower the water heater temperature: Reducing the water temperature to 120°F (or even 115°F) can help minimize condensation.
  1. Install a drain pan: Call a qualified plumber to install a drain pan below the water heater to collect condensation drips.

10- Water heater leaking from bottom

Water heater leaking from bottom
Water heater leaking from bottom

A water heater leaking from the bottom is a bummer, but there are a couple of things you can check, and then you’ll know if it’s a simple fix or time for a replacement.

Turn off the water heater: Find the gas control valve if you have a gas water heater or the shutoff valve on the cold water pipe connected to your heater. Twist it to the right until it stops turning.

Identify the leak source:

  • Drain valve: Feel around the drain valve at the bottom of the heater. If it’s wet, try tightening the valve with a wrench. If that doesn’t stop the leak, the valve might need replacing.
  • Cracked tank: If the leak isn’t around the valve and the water seems to be spreading out from the bottom, it’s likely a crack in the tank. This, unfortunately, means you’ll need a new water heater.

11- Damaged Pressure Relief Valve

Damaged Pressure Relief Valve
Damaged Pressure Relief Valve

 A slow leak from the pressure relief valve can be dangerous. If you notice a leak, replacing the valve as soon as possible is essential. Here’s how to replace a pressure relief valve:

WARNING: Turn off the electricity and cold water supply to the water heater before proceeding.

  1. Drain the water and pressure by opening the valve with a bucket below the drain pipe.
  2. Unscrew the pressure relief valve with a pipe wrench.
  3. Screw in the new valve, wrapping it with Teflon plumber’s tape.
  4. Reattach the drain pipe.

Once you’ve replaced the valve, turn the water supply and electricity back on and check for leaks. If you’re uncomfortable replacing the valve, consult a qualified plumber immediately.