Water heater problems and their simple solutions

July 27, 2015

If a tank's liner has corroded, causing the unit to leak onto the floor, the water heater must be replaced. But other smaller problems can be fixed. Here are some quick solutions to common water heater problems that might help you save money on plumber fees.

Water heater problems and their simple solutions

Easily fix a noisy tank

A rumbling noise is a likely sign of overheating; the thermostat may not be telling the burners or heating elements to shut off.

  • Immediately cut off the burner in a gas heater or the electricity to an electric heater.
  • Check that the pressure relief value is operating. If the water is too hot, call a plumber.
  • If the water is barely hot, there may be sediment in the tank; open the drain valve and let out several litres (a few gallons) of water.

Common hot water problems and solutions

No hot water:

  • On a gas unit, the pilot light may have gone out; you may have to clean the burner or replace the thermocouple.
  • On an electric model, the thermostat may be faulty; call a plumber to replace it.

Hot water runs out quickly:

  • See that the thermostat is set high enough — above 49° C (120°F).
  • Check for leaking bathroom or kitchen faucets that can drain away hot water.
  • On a gas unit, the burner may be clogged with dirt; drain it.
  • On an electric model, the lower heating element may be faulty; have it replaced.
  • If everyone in the house has always raced to be first to take a morning shower when the water is still hot, the water tank is simply not big enough; replace it with a larger one.

Water not hot enough:

  • Make sure that the thermostat is turned up high enough.
  • On an electric model, the lower heating element, which does 90 percent of the work, may be worn out; have it replaced.

Replacing heating elements and the thermostat on an electric heater

Electric water heaters have two thermostats, one for each heating element.

  • If your water is not getting hot enough, the upper thermostat and element may need replacing.
  • If water gets hot but only for a short while, the lower thermostat and element need to be replaced. A plumber will be able to handle the job for considerably less than the cost of a new water heater.

Relighting a gas heater

When your gas water heater's pilot light goes out and you smell the odour that is placed in natural gas, call a service technician immediately and vent the room where the heater is located. If you don't smell gas, you can relight the pilot.

  1. Turn the gas cock to "pilot."
  2. Light a match, press the reset button and light the pilot.
  3. Let it burn for about 30 seconds, then turn the cock to "on."

If the pilot refuses to stay lit, you may need to change the thermocouple.

Pressure relief in a few easy steps

If pressure or temperature in a water heater gets dangerously high, a relief valve located either on top or on the side of the tank will activate automatically, spitting out the too-hot water.

  • Test this valve twice a year by pulling on its handle; if water rushes out of the attached pipe, all is well; if nothing happens, have a plumber replace the valve.

Hiring a plumber can be pricey. While they are necessary for large problems, smaller ones can sometimes be fixed yourself. Before you call a plumber, see if you can resolve your water heater problem by trying one of these simple solutions

The material on this website is provided for entertainment, informational and educational purposes only and should never act as a substitute to the advice of an applicable professional. Use of this website is subject to our terms of use and privacy policy.
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