There are all kinds of reasons why your water heater isn’t producing enough hot water. It could be too small, the settings may be wrong, or there could be a more serious problem. Sediment buildup, broken dip tubes or heating elements, and leaks can all steal your hot water away.
By determining exactly how you’re running out of hot water, you can home in on the problem. Find the description that most closely matches your hot water issue below to find out what’s going on. Once you know why you’re running out of hot water so quickly, you can try to solve it yourself or you can call in the Smell Good Cavalry:
Your water comes out in spurts of hot and cold
If your hot water seems to run hot and cold randomly regardless of what you tell it to do, then there may be sediment build-up in your water heater’s tank. Sediment builds up faster when you have hard water, when your pipes are old, or if your anode rod is worn out. Sediment build-up leaves less space for hot water in the tank. It can absorb too much of the heat generated by the heating element.
First, try flushing and draining the tank. We recommend either doing it yourself or having the pros perform a full drain and flush around once per year. If you keep running out of hot water even after a flush, then it’s possible that too much sediment has built up. Unfortunately, the only way to solve that problem is to replace your tank. In fact, you should replace it quickly… or it could, uh, explode.
You keep running out of hot water after a very short period of time
Most water heaters have two heating elements: one at the top, and one at the bottom. The top heating element repeatedly re-heats the water near the top of the tank. The bottom heating element heats all the water added to the tank to store it at a constant hot temperature. At least, that’s what it should be doing.
If your bottom heating element stops working, then it isn’t heating most of the water in your tank properly. Instead, you’ll be forced to rely on the small quantity of water your top element heats. When that water runs out, your water heater will send you unheated water instead… which makes for the nasty shower surprise you’re all too familiar with. To fix this problem, replace your tank’s bottom water heater element. Give us a call and we’ll take care of it fast.
Your water never gets above a lukewarm temperature
The water heater’s dip tube pushes the cold water to the bottom of the tank. There, the lower element heats it before you use it. If your water heater’s dip tube breaks, then all the replacement cold water added to the tank mixes with the hot water already inside. As a result, you get a lukewarm mixture of hot and cold water that satisfies nobody, like a reverse Goldilocks.
If your dip tube is broken, you may discover small chunks of plastic in your showerhead or sink strainers. Take off your showerhead and look for debris. If you find any, then you could try to test and replace your dip tube yourself, or call in the pros. Replacing a dip tube is relatively cheap, quick, and easy.
You’re running out of hot water before everyone is finished with it
Does this sound familiar? You’re locked in a constant competition against everyone in your home to seize the bathroom first thing in the morning. If you’re unlucky enough not to be the early bird, then you’d better shower quickly or risk a rude (and cold) awakening. And forget about showering while someone’s washing dishes, running the dishwasher, or doing the laundry – that’s a one way ticket to your own private Antarctica.
Your water heater is probably simply too small. Conventional water heaters can supply an amount of water equal to the size of their storage tank. If you use more water than the tank can provide, then your heater spends 20 to 30 minutes reheating new water. If your water heater is too small for your needs, you’ll have to replace it with a bigger one.
You’re not getting any hot water at all
Did you know that your water heater has a thermostat that dictates how hot your water gets? It works just like any other thermostat: you tell it how hot you want your water, and your elements heat to that temperature. If you’re not getting any hot water at all, then your thermostat may be malfunctioning… or simply set improperly!
Most water heaters have a reset button. Troubleshooting your thermostat is as easy as clicking that button. In case that doesn’t work, locate the thermostat itself and make sure it’s set correctly. If you still have the owner’s manual, the manufacturer should have included the settings inside. If you’re like 99% of people and you have no idea where that manual is, find the settings online. Reset to the heat you want, then try resetting again. If that still doesn’t do the trick, give us a call.
If you don’t see your particular issue listed here, don’t worry. These scenarios cover the common problems, but they’re by no means exhaustive. If you still don’t know what to do after either failing to find your problem or trying our proposed solution to no avail, you still have your trump card: us.
Whatever the strange, unique, unlikely reason you’re running out of hot water, Mike Diamond’s experts will find it and will provide a solution. We’ve yet to be stumped by even the most outlandish of hot water hang ups – and we’ve seen some doozies. Next time your shower takes an unpleasant turn for the freezing, just give us a call right away. Or at least… as soon as you get out and warm up.