One of the most-used and least-thought-about appliances in your home lives tucked away in either your basement or an out-of-the-way closet. Your electric storage tank water heater. We do remember it, though, when we run out of hot water. Although problems are not common, they do come along from time to time. Let’s take a look at the most common problems you’ll see with electric water heaters. Safety tip: Remember to UNPLUG the appliance before you start troubleshooting.
Problems with water temperature far outrank any other water heater problems. Thankfully, repairs tend to be inexpensive for these types of issues.
No hot water
When you have no hot water at all, check your circuit breaker to make sure a breaker has not been tripped. If the circuit has been tripped, switch it off and back on again to reset it. If the problem is not the breaker, you will want to check the hot water temperature reset button above the upper thermostat inside the heater. In electric water heaters, failed heating elements or a faulty thermostat can also cause no hot water. If this is the case, you will need to check both the upper and lower elements and thermostats and replace whatever is malfunctioning.
Not enough hot water
Tank size. The primary cause of not enough hot water is a tank that is too small to meet your family’s needs. If your family has grown since you bought your home or if you have added newer water-using appliances (i.e. dishwasher, washing machine) your tank may not be able to keep up with the increased demand. In this case, the best option is to replace your tank. The Department of Energy provides guidelines on sizing your water heater tank needs. We also encourage you to consider multiple options such as our tankless or on-demand water heaters.
Electrical issues. A thermostat that is set too low can also explain why there is not enough hot water. Other culprits can be a failed upper water heater, a faulty thermostat or loose wiring. The elements can also become encrusted with sediment which prevents them from heating the water adequately.
Water too hot
This problem most likely stems from a thermostat that is set too high. You will have to access the thermostats for each element to lower the temperature. If you are unable to lower temperature settings, your thermostat has most likely failed and will need to be replaced.
The second most common problem with electric storage heaters is leaking. Leaks present significant safety hazards and should be dealt with as soon as they are discovered.
From the top
While water leaking from the top of the tank poses a less immediate threat, you still need to address it in a timely manner to keep it from becoming a more serious issue. Water leaking from the top of the heater tank can come from only a limited number of sources, most of which can be easily remedied. Check the ball valve in the cold water inbound line. If this is the source of your leak, simply tighten the nut securing the handle to the valve. Another potential leak site is the temperature and pressure relief valve on the top of the tank. If this is leaking, you will most likely need to replace it. If water is leaking from any of the pipe joints, you will probably want to call in a professional to make repairs.
From the bottom
Water under your tank can be coming from a loose heating element gasket, simple condensation, or a little run-off from the TPR valve releasing some water. It can also be a case of corrosion rusting out the bottom of your tank, in which case, the tank will have be replaced.
Electric water heaters don’t generally have problems, but when they do, you’ll know what to look for. If you decide to replace your water heater, we’d love to talk with you about your options. Water heating isn’t just for tanks anymore! As with any type of plumbing issue, if you feel uncomfortable troubleshooting or managing repairs, give us a call! We offer 24-hour emergency service and welcome the opportunity to serve you and your family.