Tip & How-To about Heating & Cooling

How to troubleshoot and maintain a gas or electric water heater

Water heater problems normally become self-evident: A hot water faucet fails to summon hot water, you see dripping or puddles near the water heater, or the tank emits strange gurgling or popping sounds.
Though many gas utility companies will make a free house call to solve problems with a gas water heater’s burner or the gas supply to the tank, it helps to know how to solve basic outages yourself. For more difficult issues, contact a qualified local hot water heater repair person.
Typical water heater problems include a leaking tank, not enough hot water, water that is too hot, water that is not hot enough, strange noises in the tank, and discolored water. Most water heater problems are easier to diagnose and relatively easy to handle if you understand how they work. For more about this, see How a Storage Water Heater Works. Note: Leaking natural gas can be dangerous. If you smell natural gas (it smells a bit like garlic) near the water heater, shut off the pilot light, close the gas shutoff valve, and call a plumber or your gas utility company for assistance. See our information on gas leaks.
How to Flush & Drain a Water Heater
Before draining and flushing your water heater, turn off the gas or electric power (depending on whether it is a gas or electric water heater) and let the water cool a little. Close the incoming water valve and attach a hose to the drain valve to run the water into a large bucket or to a drain or the outdoors. Open the drain valve and open one hot water faucet somewhere in the house to let in air. When all water has drained from the water heater, turn the cold water valve on and off until the water from the drain runs clear. Then close the drain valve and the hot water faucet, open the cold water valve, and turn the water back on.
Water heater tips
Set the temperature control to about 150 degrees F. or lower if you have no dishwasher or if you have small children or elderly people in the home who might scald themselves. To minimize the energy it takes to heat the water, insulate your water pipes if they run a long way from your heater to your faucets. Also consider installing a point-of-use water heater. Always shut off the power to an electric water heater before working on it. Periodically check the temperature-pressure relief valve, which keeps pressure in the boiler from building up too much. Lift or lower its lever on this valve. Water should drain from the overflow pipe. Do not work on an electric water heater if there is standing water pooled on the floor near the appliance. Shut off the circuit to the water heater and call a qualified water heater repairperson.

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2 Answers

Water only stays hot for about 5 min or


Gas or electric?
Electric water heater ... then test for crossover, check for water leak, replace thermostats, test elements
Gas water heater ... test for crossover, check for water leak
http://waterheatertimer.org/Crossover.html

http://waterheatertimer.org/How-to-replace-thermostat-on-electric-water-heater.html


http://waterheatertimer.org/How-to-test-water-heater-element.html

water leak: turn off all taps and put ear against pipe and listen for water leak... check if water meter advances when all water taps are off.

Gene

Oct 09, 2014 | Water Heaters

1 Answer

I have a gas Rheem hot water heater.....The flame appears to be on full blast, not just the pilot. I have run no hot water today, so we shouldn't be out of hot water. The water our of the hot faucet is luke warm at the hottest and cools from there! HELP!!


Sounds like you have cold water entering the hot pipe, or crossover.

(A) Put bucket under water heater overflow pipe, and stand back from scalding water. Gently open and close the TP relief valve on water heater. Check temperature of water to see if heater genuinely has hot water.
It could be the water heater has sediment build-up and is no longer able to heat the water, or the gas thermostat is bad.
http://waterheatertimer.org/Clean-sediment-out-of-water-heater.html
http://waterheatertimer.org/How-to-install-gas-water-heater.html

(B) If water heater has hot water, and hot is not getting to faucet, then you have a crossover problem somewhere.
1) This problem can be located at crossover point of a recirculation system, if re-circ check valve has failed.
http://waterheatertimer.org/Water-heater-recirculation-system.html

2) Failure of a single handle faucet cartridge can cause crossover.
Read how to test for crossover:
http://waterheatertimer.org/pdf/Crossover-on-single-handled-faucet.pdf

3) Other causes for crossover are a failed check valve elsewhere in the plumbing system, for example on the pool equipment. Also a failed mixing valve which is usually installed on top of the water heater so that some areas of the house like laundry room receive very hot water, while the kids bathroom receives lower temperature water.

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For a price, expert works with you while you work on water heater or any do-it-yourself project.
Fixya is always less expensive than a service call.

May 15, 2011 | Rheem 50 Gallon FVR NATGAS Water Heater...

1 Answer

My reliance natural gas water heater overheats causing scalding water to come out of my faucets. I have had authorized service companies come out three times to replace and retrofit different controls and the valve.


Information below is for tank-type electric or gas heater only.

There is a condition called stacking.
This might apply to your water heater or not.
Having authorized service people to your house 3 times suggests more complicated mix of problems.

Stacking is caused when there are repeated short draws of hot water.
As you know, each time any hot water is drawn out of faucet, cold water immediately enters bottom of tank through the dip tube. The dip tube is connected to cold water inlet and runs to bottom of tank.
So all cold water enters bottom of tank close to the gas water heater thermostat.
See illustration of dip tube, that also shows copper thermostat sticking into tank that is connected to gas valve.
http://waterheatertimer.org/Clean-sediment-out-of-water-heater.html#flushelectric

Let's say your water heater if fully heated and burner is off.
A short draw of hot water causes cold water to enter tank.
Another short draw. And then another short draw, each draw happens close to same time as other draws.
Water at top of tank is plenty hot, but bursts of cold water get near thermostat and cause thermostat to turn on burner.
Burner heats water and more hot water rises to top of tank. Water at top of tank becomes overheated each time stacking occurs.

Again, a stacking situation may not be the cause of your problem.
However, remember if single-handled faucet is opened straight upward, then that draws both hot and cold water. And cold water immediately enters tank.
Only when the single-handled faucet is lifted with the handle all the way to the right, does it draw only cold water. Even so, some single-handled faucets have bleed-over between hot and cold sides, so hot water is drawn anyway.

Another possibility is that the dip tube ends at or near thermostat, instead of going all the way to bottom of tank. The dip tube should go straight down from cold water inlet, but dip tubes are made of plastic, and some self-cleaning tanks have a curved dip tube or dip tube with perforations that create currents designed to stir sediments off bottom of tank (although this is not proven to be effective deterrent to sediment formation).

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Feb 10, 2011 | RELIANCE ELECTRIC WATER HEATER

1 Answer

turned off the hot water to fix a leaking tap. now the tap has no hot or cold water and the hot water tank valve is leaking?


It sounds like two problems.
Problem 1) Clog inside faucet or clog inside pipes at faucet
Remove supply tubes leading to faucet and see if problem is inside pipes or inside faucet.
My bet is clog inside faucet.

If you have galvanized pipe that meets copper pipe, this can be trouble spot.
Article on clogged water pipes at Inspectapedia:
http://www.inspectapedia.com/water/Water_Pipe_Clog_Repair_Guide.htm

Article on clogged pipes:
http://www.waterheaterrescue.com/pages/WHRpages/English/Troubleshooting/Tanklets/backflushing.html

Problem 2) Water heater leak ... you say tank valve is leaking? Is that cold-water shut-off valve? Or tank drain valve? Or TP valve?

If cold water shut-off is leaking, then replace shut off.

If tank drain valve is leaking, then check if plastic valve is cracked. If drain valve is cracked, then replace with a brass valve from Home Depot. If plastic valve breaks off, then use hammer and screwdriver to gently chip out the broken plastic valve. New valve threads need teflon tape to seal pipe. If valve is just dripping, then put garden-hose cap over end of valve and screw down tight.

If TP valve is leaking, then replace with same temperature and pressure rating.
New TP valve threads need teflon tape to seal pipe.

Problem 3) If pressure is low all over house:
Buy pressure gauge at hardware store that screws onto hose connection.

Test pressure on outdoor spigot.
Open faucet and check if pressure drops. This says if problem is inside pipes that enter house.

Test pressure on water heater drain valve.
This says if pressure problem is before -or- after water heater.

If problem is before the water heater, then shut-off valve located on cold water line is suspect.
If problem is after water heater, it could be in hot water outflow pipe on top of water heater, or a nearby elbow.

Remove hot water line leading from water heater and check pressure. This says if problem is where hot water leaves tank.
Read articles above about clogs inside water lines.


Nov 16, 2010 | Rheem Water Heater Pressure Relief Valve

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