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How to Fix A Water Heater

When you are having problems with an electric water heater, there could be numerous elements that require repair or replacement, or there could be as simple as a thermostat that needs adjusting, and not needing a new water heater. Perhaps the problem lies with the water heater’s wiring, and that’s why there’s no hot water. Gas water heaters could experience issues with the pilot light, the thermocouple, the upper thermostat, the gas valve, or the vent pipe. But there are some kinds of problems that both electric and gas water heaters have in common, such as issues with heating elements, anode rods needing replaced, corrosion of the tank itself, or the hot water heater problems could be from sediment buildup.

From no hot water, not enough hot water, to a leaking water heater; no matter what the water heater problems you’re experiencing, water heater repair and troubleshooting common water heater problems will need to be performed, either by the DIY homeowner or a professional plumber experienced with water heater issues.

Before doing any kind of hot water heater repair, particularly gas water heaters, there are things you need to have some familiarity with, including working with natural gas and gas supply lines. While hot water heaters can give us scalding hot water at a moment’s notice, it can also be extremely dangerous to repair if you’re not careful. If you smell rotten eggs, you may have not connected the gas line correctly or there could be an issue with the shutoff valve or water heating pilot light.

If your water heater is out of warranty and you want to tackle it yourself, here is how to address a few of those problems (and whatever problem you tackle, it is imperative that you act with utmost caution):


Cleaning Sediment Buildup in Your Water Heater 

When sediment accumulates in an electric water heater, elements can burn out and a tank’s efficiency will be limited. To deal with this, all you may need to do is clean your water heater, or if you have done this recently enough, all you may need to do is flush the water heater tank.

To flush your water heater, you first have to turn off the power, and you may want the water temperature to cool off before you proceed. For an electric heater, shut off the power at the circuit breaker access panel; for a gas heater, turn off the gas valve at the bottom of the tank (or you can turn the dial to “Pilot” to avoid having to light the pilot when you’re done). All hot water valves and faucets need to be off as well so the constant water supply to the top of the tank is temporarily off.

Then you can attach a hose that has water pressure to the drain valve at the base of the tank (it will look like a spigot), and then place the other end of the hose into a sink, bathtub, or drain that is lower than the drain valve. Then check that the cold water inlet valve (at the top of the heater) is turned on, and you can open the drain valve. Dirty water will pour out at first, and then it should eventually clear up. Once you see clear water running from the heater, you can close the drain valve, detach the hose, and open a couple of hot water faucets to deplete air pockets. Watch for any leaks. If everything looks good, you can restore power to the water heater.

It goes without saying that a tankless water heater will not need a tank flush, since by nature, there’s no water holding tank to flush out sediment buildup, though there can be maintenance performed to extend the lifespan of these units.


Fixes For a Leaking Water Heater

Is the drain valve leaking? Sometimes, the fix will be simple. You can try opening the drain valve a bit, then turn it off and make sure it’s tight. If the problem was a bit of sediment in the valve, then you have solved it. Is the drain valve only leaking a little bit? Then you may just need to buy a cap for it, which should cost you less than five dollars.

If you face a substantial leak, however, then you will have to identify where the leak is coming from. If it starts at the point where the drain valve is connected to the tank, then you may need to replace the drain valve entirely. If the leak is coming from the pressure relief valve, then you will have to replace it (see next section). If the inlet and outlet pipes at the top of the heater are leaking, you can take two pipe wrenches, place them in opposing directions, and tighten the union at each pipe.

Does it look like the tank is leaking? It may not be. When a great volume of cold water rushes into the tank, there will be condensation. This will mean that only a small amount of water is going to be dripping to the floor, and this will stop once the water is heated. If you still see this leaking in a few hours or the next morning, and if the water inside is heated to a high water temperature, typically 130 – 140 degrees fahrenheit, then, unfortunately, you may have a tank that has water leaks. In this case, you need to replace your water heater, and may consider shutting the power off to the unit and cutting the water flow to the tank. There are no repairs for this type of leak in hot water heater tanks, unlike when there is a leak in water pipes and water lines that can sometimes be repaired.


How to Replace a Water Heater’s Pressure Relief Valve

This valve should be located along the side and close to the top of the heater’s tank. It could be attached to a copper tube that goes down to the floor. There are no fixes for a broken pressure relief valve; you will need to get a new one. But you can first check to see if the valve is simply improperly positioned. You will have to shut off power to the tank and wait for the water to cool down. Then with a pail under the pressure relief valve, you can twist open the valve a few times, for a few seconds each time. If sediment is the problem, then this should solve it. Restore power to the water heater, and once the water is heated again, you can see if there is a leak or spray coming from the valve again. If so, then you will have to replace it.

To replace the valve, you will have to turn off the power and water going to the heater, and then drain some of the water from the tank. With a pipe wrench, you can take off the old valve; on some models, you might have to detach an outlet tube first. You can find a fairly inexpensive replacement valve at a home or plumbing store. Take the old pressure valve with you so that you can find the right valve, one with the same ratings for pressure and temperature. You can place Teflon tape or pipe dope on the threads of your new pressure relief valve, then tighten the new valve in place. Then you can put some pipe dope or Teflon pipe on the nipple of the outlet tube before you before you reattach it to the valve.


Hot Water Heater Noises 

Think you have a bad water heater? Common signs of trouble include discolored water, leaking water, or little or no hot water. There may be odors, too, but noise is often an issue if you have a bad hot water heater in Kansas City.

Excessive noise, according to, can mean:

  • Corrosive minerals and sediment have built up inside the tank or heating elements.
  • Dissolved minerals have recrystallized on interior surfaces.
  • There is a leak somewhere in the appliance.
  • Metal parts are expanding and contracting significantly.


When to Seek Water Heater Repair in Kansas City

Audible signs it’s time for a fix include:

Popping: Mineral deposits in an electric water heater release steam when heated. Even if you have an in-line water filter, minerals can slowly accumulate. Persistent popping noises should be addressed with maintenance.

Banging: Sediment can literally explode inside the tank. Professional repairs may be needed, as chunks of material may be too big to fit through the heater’s drain valve.

Gurgling: This can also mean particles from hard water are circulating and building up. You may need a professional to remove the scale or replace the unit.

Boiling: A boiling sound can mean the tank is overheating. This increases the pressure to a dangerous level, so emergency service is a must.

Noise can indicate improper temperature settings, a faulty temperature-pressure relief valve, or that hot water pipes need to be insulated. It can also mean Kansas City water heater installation to replace your old unit is the best answer. Never put off service.


Contact an Experienced Kansas City Plumber! 

Of course, there are numerous other issues that a hot water heater can experience that could not be addressed in this post. If you are not sure what the issue with your water heater is, face complex problems that require the assistance of a Kansas City plumber, or want to see what a new water heater installation may look like, do not hesitate to contact A-1 Sewer & Septic Service, Inc. Our team of plumbing technicians can provide the excellent service you need, even on weekends or in the evening. Call our office today to get your quote.