How Water Heaters Work
Most problems with water heaters are announced by noises or by water that’s either too hot or not hot enough. Often you can correct the problem yourself. A possible exception is a water leak, which may require professional service or tank replacement. Gas leaks call for immediate help from the utility company.
Whenever someone turns on a hot water faucet, heated water is drawn from the top of the tank and is replaced by cold water that is carried to the bottom through the dip tube. When the water temperature drops, a thermostat activates the heat source (a burner in a gas model – two heating elements is an electric.) A gas heater has a flue running up the center and out the top to vent deadly gasses. An electric heater needs no venting. In both, an anti-corrosion anode attracts corrosion that would otherwise attack the tank’s walls.
Maintenance for Good, Safe Service
- Open the drain valve at the bottom about every 6 months, letting the water run into a bucket until it looks clear (usually about 5 gallons). This will prevent sediment accumulation.
- Annually test the temperature-pressure relief pressure buildup by lifting or depressing its handle and draining water from the overflow pipe. If water doesn’t drain out, shut off water to the heater, open a hot water faucet somewhere in the house, and replace the valve.
Water Heater Trouble
Having trouble with your hot water heater? Are you getting hot water? Is the water hot for a bit then cools off fast? Getting leaking around the base? Pilot light keeps going out?
Are you getting hot water?
Some of the causes of this are your pilot light has gone out, the gas valve has shut down, the element is no good in an electric hot water tank, the temperature is set too low, the water heater was turned to off. I have seen all of these. Of course in these cases there is water coming out of the hot tap, it just is not hot. In some cases there is no water coming out of the tap. Then maybe the hot water valve is off or faulty. These are the questions I ask when I am on the phone, that way I can give some kind of an idea of what the cost will be to fix. The next question I ask is the most important. How old is the water heater? If they tell me it is 10 years old or older then I tell them let’s replace it, the cost to fix and the cost to replace is about the same, except if you replace you have now fixed everything.
Waters hot for a bit then cools of fast.
The most common problem here is that yours as built up so much scale that it can not keep up to demand. This happens in areas of very high hard water parts in the water. This scale comes out of the water at higher temperatures and then forms as a scale on the metal inside your tank. Only a one eighth of an inch of scale will reduce your capacity by 14 percent. For a standard 40 gallon water heater you now only have about 34 gallons. One remedy is to install a low flow shower head. The less flow means less water being used therefore will stay hotter longer. Getting Leaking around the Base?
If this is happening the first thing to do is check to see if the leak is coming from the water heater or if it is coming from another source and is just pooling around it. If it is coming from the tank, then get a new one and quick, shut off the water, and the gas or electricity and get a plumber or go and buy a new one. I have had people call me and say the tank was leaking for 3 weeks, and others have said it was leaking for a day before it burst and flooded their basement. This is not worth waiting for get a new water heater. Clean up costs could easily hurt your wallet more then the heater.
If temperature is a problem on a gas heater, check that the temperature control is on and is set correctly (normally 160 Degrees – a little lower if there’s no dishwasher). If you suspect a faulty control, test it by opening a hot water faucet for 3 minutes. If the heater doesn’t turn on, reset the control to a lower temperature and test again. If it still fails, have it replaced by Sacramento’s water heater experts, Crystal Blue Plumbing.
Draining and Flushing the Tank
- Turn off the gas or electricity.
- Close the cold water valve.
- Attach a hose to the drain valve, to route water into a floor drain or outdoors.
- Open the drain valve and open one hot water faucet somewhere in the house to let in air.
- When all water has drained, turn the cold water valve on and off until the water from the drain looks clear.
- Close the drain valve and the hot water faucet then open the cold water valve and restore power.
Troubleshooting Gas Water Heaters
Knowing how to light the pilot is one key to living with a gas water heater; see the instructions on the tank. For safety, a gas heater has a thermocouple. This is thermoelectric device that impinges on the pilot flame and shuts off the gas if the pilot light goes out. The gas flame should be blue. If it’s orange, adjust the shutter; if it’s still orange, call for service.
Twice a year, inspect the flue assembly to be sure it’s properly aligned and all its joints are sealed. Then check the flue by placing your hand near the draft diverter (with the burner on); air flowing out indicates an obstruction that should be removed. Every year or two, shut off the gas, remove the access panel, and clean the burner ports, using stiff wire or a needle. If you ever smell gas, get out of the house immediately and call the gas company.