Usually, hot water is taken for granted. But as soon as there’s a problem, you notice how heavily you rely on it.

Without hot water, there’s no way you could have energizing morning showers and deep soaks in your bubble bath.

So, what do you do when you have a problem with your water heater? This post will highlight the common issues that arise, why they happen, and how you can fix them. In short, we’re covering how to troubleshoot a water heater.

My Water Is Coming Out Cold (I Have No Hot Water).

The most obvious sign that there’s an issue with your water heater is having no hot water.

Usually, if you’ve turned on the faucet and only cold water comes out, you’ve got a fault with your power, thermostat, or heating elements.

First, you need to ensure the water heater’s circuit breaker hasn’t tripped. Investigate your service panel, and if it’s tripped, turn it off and back on again.

If the heater’s breaker is still powered on and didn’t trip, you need to reset the high-temperature limit on your water heater. To do so, follow these 6 steps:

  1. Before you begin, make sure you turn off the breaker to your water heater’s power in your service panel.
  2. Remove the access panel, insulation, and safety guard when the power is off. Do not touch any wires or electrical terminals as this could be dangerous.
  3. Find the red high-temperature cutoff reset button. It’s located just above the upper thermostat.
  4. Press this button.
  5. Put the safety guard, insulation, and access panel back.
  6. Switch the heater’s circuit breaker on.

My Water Is Coming Out Too Hot

Having no hot water at all is a nightmare but having water that is too hot is equally as frustrating. Luckily, we can tell you how to fix water that is coming out too hot.

When your water is scalding, no matter where the knob is in your shower, the thermostats in your water heater are likely set too high. This is a simple fix.

You’ll need to set the thermostats to an appropriate temperature. This begins by checking the thermostat’s settings:

  1. Turn off the power to the water heater in your service panel. Do this before you touch anything else.
  2. Remove the access panel, insulation, and safety guard from each heating set on your water heater. Don’t touch any terminals or wires.
  3. Test that the power is off with a non-contact voltage tester. Do not skip this step, however tempted you might be.
  4. Check the heat setting on both of your thermostats. They should both display the same temperature. The recommended range is between 115 and 125 degrees.
  5. Amend the settings with a flathead screwdriver.
  6. Repeat this step for the other thermostat, ensuring you’ve set them at the same temperature.
  7. Reinstall the safety guard, insulation, and access panels.
  8. Switch the heater’s circuit breaker on.

My Water Heater is Leaking

If you notice water coming out of your water heater, you’ll need to act quickly. Failure to do so can damage flooring and walls and spread dangerous mold and mildew. All of these come with a high repair bill and a severe headache.

Remember that a leak in your water heater won’t go away with time. It needs intervention. So, here’s how you fix a leaky water heater:

My Water Heater Is Leaking from the Top

If your water heater is leaking from the top of the machine, it suggests one of two things. Either your cold or hot outlet pipes aren’t fastened tight enough, or your T&P valve is faulty.

Before you begin troubleshooting a leaky water heater, you need to find where the leak is. Then, you can use our steps to fix it.

To find the leak in your water heater, turn it off first. However, don’t switch off the cold water inlet until you’ve found the location of the leak. A lack of pressure could cause the leak to disappear, and it’ll reappear once everything’s switched on again.

If you can’t find the source of the leak visibly, run a dry hand over the pipes and fittings to try and feel for any sign of liquid.

If you still can’t find the leak, wrap the pipes and fittings with tissue paper and keep an eye on any liquid that seeps through the material.

How to Fix a Leaking Valve

A leaking valve may frighten homeowners who are new to plumbing problems. However, this is one of the most straightforward repairs on our list. All you need to do is tighten the nut that is holding the valve in place.

If tightening doesn’t work and the leak continues or grows, it’s time to replace the valve altogether.

How to Fix a Leaking T&P Valve (Temperature and Pressure Relief Valve)

The T&P valve makes sure there’s no excess pressure or water. If it’s not working correctly, it could lead to over-pressurization and could then break your thermostat.

Usually, it sits neatly on top of your water heater, in the center.
If you can see a leak coming from the T&P valve, you should replace it. Luckily, this is a simple procedure and takes only a few minutes.

Water Heater Leaking from the Bottom

If you’re noticing water leaking from the bottom of your water heater, there’s likely a build-up of condensation, a problem with your electric heating element gasket, or the T&P valve releasing too much pressure from inside your tank.

Of course, it could be that your actual water heater tank is leaking. If that’s the case, the only fix is to get a new water heater altogether. However, make sure you check that it’s not any of the above problems first, as fixing them is far cheaper than buying a new mechanism.

How to Fix a Leaking Drain Valve

You’ll find your drain valve at the bottom of your water heater. The drain is used before removal or during routine cleaning to empty the tank.

Signs of a leaky drain valve are water leaking out of the opening or even around the tap.

You’ll need to make sure the valve is completely closed. While it seems obvious, often people haven’t switched it off properly. Turn it as clockwise as you can manually.

If this doesn’t stop the leak, it’s time to replace your valve.

Follow these steps to replace the drain valve on your water heater:

  1. Using a water hose, connect the drain to an outdoor environment where the water can drain.
  2. Turn off your water inlet for the tank. This is located at the top of your water heater on the cold water line.
  3. Turn the drain valve counterclockwise to open it, and allow the tank to empty.
  4. After draining, turn the valve counterclockwise for removal.
  5. Use Teflon (plumber’s tape) or joint compound to wrap the threads of your new drain valve.
  6. Screw the new valve into the opening manually.

Once you’ve screwed it in as tight as you can, use a wrench to tighten it another half a turn, or until it’s noticeably in place.

My Water Is Coming Out a Rusty or Dirty Color

Our final water heater troubleshooting problem is rusty or dirty water, which suggests a corroded anode rod.

If this is ignored, you’ll eventually need to replace your water heater altogether, as it will start leaking. So, act quickly to replace your anode rod.

Here’s how to replace the anode rod in your water heater:

  1. Turn off all the power to your water, including the cold water supply line.
  2. Locate your anode rod, which is usually on the top of your water heater, to the side.
  3. Drain some of the water in your tank. About 10% is enough, and make sure you connect it to a standard garden hose and have the water draining outside.
  4. Let the tank cool down.
  5. Remove the anode rod with a socket or boxed end wrench. Don’t use liquids like Liquid Wrench on your water heater’s parts, as it could contaminate your hot water, leading to sickness.
  6. Install your new anode rod by making sure the threads are pointed downwards, wrapping them in the plumber’s tape or joint compound.
  7. Insert the new rod by turning it clockwise manually until you can’t turn it anymore.
  8. Use your socket wrench to finish tightening it. Usually, about half a turn will be sufficient. Make sure the water heater doesn’t turn or twist while you’re fitting it.

If you find yourself needing to troubleshoot a water heater, whether your water is coming out too hot, too cold, from the wrong places, or the wrong color, refer to this guide. Remember to be safe when fixing any water heater problems, and contact the pros at JW Plumbing, Heating and Air if you’re ever in doubt.

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