Explore common water heating problems, causes, symptoms, and tips on how to fix issues with the water heaters.
Find out how to troubleshoot common issues such as leaky water tank, no hot water, not enough hot water, cold water sandwich, and sediment and scale build-up. Also, see the repair tips on how to deal with strange noise inside the heater, bad odor, gas valve problems, pilot and thermocouple malfunction, etc.
DIY instructions, how and where to get help for fast and professional repair!
A troubleshooting guide can be used for repairing most of the electric and gas-powered water heaters sold in the US and Canada, including; Rheem, AO Smith, Bradford White, American, State, GE, Ruud, Whirlpool, and others.
Keep in mind that symptoms or signs of water heater failure are very similar among different manufacturers, and many are the same, so directions for one model can be applied to other.
To better understand propane, natural gas, and electric heaters, we recommend you become familiar with articles on how these units work and their main parts. Once you collect all the necessary information, troubleshooting water heaters become much easier.
Heater's problems are not complicated to diagnose, and if DIY home and plumbing projects are not strange to you, and you have the necessary tools, skills, and the right guide, then you can successfully troubleshoot a water heater without calling a plumber.
Note: Troubleshooting water heaters using gas and electricity should be performed by a qualified plumber or HVAC technician.
To make the hot water heater troubleshooting guide easier to understand and fix the heater as a pro, we have provided a lot of information about common problems, causes, and symptoms of water heating issues. Some are found in this article, some in our articles about gas water heater problems, repairing electric type, or tankless. Check it out!
A leaky water heater is the most frequent problem reported by many people and is found in many consumer reports. The reason for such malfunction might be that the tank's steel body has corroded up to that level that caused a rupture in the tank, resulting in a water leak.
So, you have found a small puddle of water under the water heater and asking yourself - is the heater leaking, or the issue is with condensation? For the proper troubleshooting, keep in mind that condensation is often present on newer models, such as condensing models, as these units are more efficient than older ones.
A typical heater will produce approximately one-half gallon of water vapor during every hour of work. Condensation usually happens shortly after the heater starts. Follow the provided link to learn more about what causes condensation, how to prevent and deal with it.
A puddle of water under the tank-type water heater is often related to water leaking and condensation. But what if there is dripping from the relief valve or a fixture during the unit's recovery cycle and when no hot or cold water is used?
If the water is too hot or cold, you might have a problem with the faulty thermostat. Use this article to learn how to troubleshoot and replace the water heater thermostat and ensure a comfortable shower – again.
Check out this troubleshooting guide to fix the strange noise in the water heater and improve the lower performance. Sediment build-up at the bottom of the tank is the main problem that must be addressed correctly and on time.
Also, learn how to reduce the effects of hard water using a water softener.
There are a few reasons why your hot water is discolored, has a milky or rusty appearance, and the anode rod is one of them.
Explore what causes corrosion and how to prevent it, so rust doesn't pollute hot water and weakens the structure of the heating system.
Smelly water, also known as sulfur or rotten egg odor, is generated by bacteria due to decomposing sacrificial anode inside the tank.
Find out how to eliminate bacteria from the system using the chlorination procedure. Water heaters that are not equipped with the anode or include powered rods do not have such a problem. See how to fix smelly water.
Water hammer is the hydraulic shock that is loud and destructive to the house plumbing and a heater. Fixing this common plumbing problem is relatively easy.
Heat traps are installed to increase the heater's energy efficiency, but you can remove them if they are the source of a problem. Since the sound problems such as ticking, clicking, humming or tapping, are often caused by the heat traps, this guide can help you install or remove them.
The noise inside the water heater is usually associated with two main conditions; water hammer and mineral build-up, but there are also other reasons such as pounding, rumbling, crackling, popping, ticking, and sizzling.
"A pilot light goes out," or pilot outage is one of the most common issues when operating gas-fired water heaters. As improper venting is one of the main causes, see what you can do about it; how to prevent and fix the problem.
What to do when the temperature fluctuates from hot to cold and from hot to cold? Check out this guide for an easy fix and comfortable shower with less "cold water sandwich" effect.
Common symptoms seen on the heater exposed to excessive pressure are cockeyed nipples of the top of the heater and bulged or reversed bottom of the head. See what can be done about the bulging problem and how to prevent it.
Improper gas combustion is dangerous. Is the burner flame yellow, orange, red and "lazy"? Do you experience slow hot water recovery, the burner doesn't ignite, combustion odor, smoking and sooting, or burner flame floats?
Then, check out the article "how to properly vent a gas water heater" and learn how to fix it. To avoid even more dangerous situation, check if there is carbon monoxide emission that might lead to gas poisoning.
Does it take too long to get hot water at the kitchen sink or in the bathroom? Check out what the cause is and what you can do to get hot water faster.
Plumbing crossover is the main reason for complaints such as: “not enough hot water” and “hot water runs out quickly.”
Find out how to prevent, test, and repair it successfully.
Is your tankless water heater malfunctioning due to freezing temperatures? Use this article and see how to avoid the problem with proper winterizing.
Before the big problem occurs, it is vital to understand the symptoms, does a heater have low performance, uncomfortable temperature, is it still efficient, does it deliver enough hot water, is it heating water at all, and finally, troubleshoot and fix it on time.
Electric models are very easy to troubleshoot, while fixing gas heaters is more complicated. Still, if you know the heating process, unit's anatomy and have basic knowledge, the repair shouldn't be a problem.
Due to the advanced design, tankless is even more complex. Because many models are equipped with the diagnostics system, troubleshooting is easier.
With the proper problem diagnosis, you will save time and money. I have often seen and experienced many times that a solution for a water heating problem can be very simple (like low-temperature settings or a blown fuse at the breaker) or easy repair by replacing the faulty element (heating element, thermostat...).
The recommendation is to perform the maintenance and service the unit regularly because this is one of the best ways to prevent the problem on the heater and even extend the life of the unit.
Before trying to fix any of the problems presented in the above text, here are more tips for troubleshooting water heaters and preparing the site for repairs.
Keep in mind that the water heater failure and the unit's replacement can be easily avoided if the signs of a potential problem are identified on time.
Some of these issues are easy to fix; some require more time, knowledge, and the right tools. Prevention is the key, so if the maintenance is done regularly and as recommended by the manufacturer, it will bring long service, efficient, and safe operation.
For additional help, use the AO Smith website with the links to the service handbooks (in pdf format).
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