Have you stepped into your shower and found that you are unable to get any degree of hot water? Have you nearly burned your hands attempting to wash them in your sink? Have you noticed water emerging from your electric hot water heater? Do you hear strange and unusual popping sounds that you cannot explain? Is the water emerging from your tap rust-colored? Does the water smell like rotting eggs?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, it is likely that your electric hot water heater is suffering from some type of problem. Now, you must determine what is wrong with it. In this guide, we will attempt to guide you in your troubleshooting endeavors.
Before You Start
Before initiating any troubleshooting steps outlined in this guide, you must turn off the power through the circuit breaker or the fuse that is located in the electrical panel in your home. Failure to engage in this step puts you at high risk of experiencing electrocution. If you are not comfortable with this step or you lack experience in troubleshooting plumbing components, it is advised that you enlist the assistance of a professional plumber. Remember, safety must always come first.
Possible Problems That May Occur in Electric Hot Water Heaters
1. Water Seems to be Too Hot
If you turn the hot water on in your home and it seems to be too hot, it could be as simple as needing to turn down the setting on either the upper or the lower thermostat associated with the system. It is best to set both of these thermostats no higher than 140°F. On the low end, you may drop them as low as 110°F.
Once the power is shut off at the breaker or the fuse, remove the access panel on the hot water heater. Immediately behind the panel, you will find insulation. This, too, should be removed.
Finally, take off the safety guard. In most instances, a flathead screwdriver will be required to adjust the temperature.
If you find that the temperature is set accordingly or know that no adjustments have recently been made on your electric hot water heater, it could be that one or even both of the thermostats are malfunctioning.
Additionally, the pressure relief valve in the system could be blocked. If you have hard water or your water contains a lot of minerals, the mineral content being too high could be the core of the issue. If you find that the water is scalding hot – for no apparent reason and all of the sudden – it indicates that the elements within the system are overheating.
You will need to determine the cause and make the necessary repairs. In many cases, the elements will also need to be replaced.
2. No Hot Water at All
If you are not getting any hot water whatsoever from your electric hot water heater, check the circuit breaker or fuse in the electrical panel to ensure that it has not tripped or has blown.
If this is not the case, it could be that the upper or the lower thermostats associated with your hot water heater is not receiving power or has simply malfunctioned.
If the thermostats check out and seem to be fully operational, it could be that the heating elements associated with your electric hot water heater are not working properly.
If you have checked out all of these components and they are working, it could be the high-temperature limit with your appliance.
This limit is set during the manufacturing process at the factory. It is not a setting that is intended to be re-adjusted. As a result, it is a bit challenging to access. You must remove the access panel and the insulation in place. Then, the plastic guard from the upper element in the unit must be removed. A non-contact tester for voltage should then be used to ensure that no electricity is present. Once this is confirmed, push in the red button that is situated immediately above the thermostat. Replace all components and check to see if the issue is resolved.
If you find that there is hot water but that it runs out on a regular basis, there could be an issue with the size of the unit. In this instance, it is best to either upgrade your electric hot water heater with a larger unit or limit the amount of hot water that your family uses.
You may do this by installing low-flow showerheads and water efficient faucets. You can also adjust your dishwashing and laundry schedule in order to do larger loads at once and not a lot of smaller loads. If you continue to have difficulty with low or no hot water, contact a plumber immediately for further assistance.
3. Unusual Noises
If you have noticed unusual noises coming from your electric hot water heater, there is an issue. If the noise resembles that of a low type of rumble, it could be that water within the tank is starting to boil.
This is a sign that your heater is overheating.
This stems from an accumulation of sediment within the bottom of the tank that holds the water. If the noise is high-pitched and has a whining sound, it could be that scales have accumulated on the elements. To resolve these issues, drain the tank and clean the elements in the system.
4. Weird Smells and/or Discolored Water
If you have noticed weird smells associated with your water or if the water appears to be discolored, this could be a sign that the pipes are rusting, the water tank is corroding, or the anode rod is failing.
If rust is the culprit, whatever component is rusting will need to be replaced.
If the anode rod is the culprit, it can be replaced. It could leave a bad smell in your tank, though. To get rid of it, just treat both the tank and the pipes for a couple of hours with a solution of 2 pints of hydrogen peroxide to 40 gallons of water. Flush from the system and install the new anode rod. If the smell is still present, consider installing an electrical hot water heater that is lined with plastic.
If the water is discolored, start by completely draining the water within the tank. If the source of water for your home comes from a well, make sure the temperature is set at 140°F. The reason being is, bacteria may build up from the well inside of your hot water heater. The temperature previously mentioned is high enough to kill that bacterium.
If you have hard water coming from your well, you should drain and flush out the system on a regular basis. This will prevent the buildup of the associated sediment from invading the bottom of the tank and the elements.
5. System is Leaking
If you find that your electric hot water heater is leaking, there could be a wide assortment of issues impacting the system. These include plumbing connection issues, water tank corrosion, valves, and even heating elements that have come loose.
Simply evaluate your tank for loose parts. If any are observed, tighten them. If the tank is actually corroded, you will need to invest in a replacement.
Turn off the electricity to the unit and the power. Then, drain the tank so that the leak is stopped. You will need to dry up any moisture that has leaked in your home to avoid water damage. Then, you may call in a plumbing professional to handle the new installation.
6. Reset Button Continuously Trips
The reset button on your home’s electrical hot water heating unit is a built-in safety device that is designed to turn off in the event that the system experience overheating. If the unit loses power, it may be pressed to restore power; however, if you find that you are continuously having to press this button or that it trips constantly, there is likely another issue occurring.
These include the failure of the reset button, a bad thermostat, a heating element that has burned out, loose wiring, or even a bad breaker.
To prevent further complications, you should contact a professional as soon as possible to determine the underlying issue and resolve it. The less downtime, the better – especially when it comes to hot water in the home and any potential electrical-based issue occurring.
How Much Does an Electric Hot Water Heater Cost?
The amount that you pay for a new electric hot water heater will vary by make, model, size, and features. The average unit may be as low as $300 or as high as $700. Installation costs are additional.
If you have an issue with your electrical hot water heater, we here at Reynolds Plumbing encourage you to contact us today. We can quickly determine the source of the issue and resolve it.