What to Do If There Isn’t Any Hot Water


If you aren’t getting any hot water, there could be a number of reasons why. The fix could be as quick as lighting the pilot, or you might have to clean out the entire tank or fix a leak in your heater. Whatever steps you have to take to restore your hot water, the first is to pinpoint what the problem is. Here then are some tips on how to troubleshoot a water heater that’s failing you.

Check the Pilot Light

If you have a gas water heater, one of the first things you can check is the pilot light. If the pilot has gone out, then how you go about re-lighting it will depend on you’re the model of your water heater. Be sure to consult the instructions on the tank. One of the most important things to get right in the process is the timing, and your tank will be labeled with these specifics. Generally speaking, you would need to turn down the temperature as low as possible on your heater, and then turn the gas valve off. After ten minutes, you can take off the cover on the burner assembly. How you proceed depends on whether or not the heater has its own pilot light igniter (true of newer models), or if you have to light the pilot yourself.

If there is a pilot light igniter, you will usually have to:

  1. Rotate the dial to “Pilot”.
  2. Press the button for as long as instructions say to do so.
  3. This should light the pilot, but you need to watch that it remains lit.
  4. If the pilot stays lit for as long as the instructions tell you to wait and watch, you can turn the gas valve on.
  5. Don’t forget to put the cover back on.

Aside from any differences listed in your model’s instructions, the difference for heaters that do not have this igniter is that when you move the dial to “Pilot” and press and hold the button, you will have to have a long match or grill lighter at the ready to ignite the light yourself. If it does ignite before the gas valve goes off, then you have to wait to try again.

Want to Adjust the Thermostat?

Perhaps your instinct is to raise the temperature on your heater. If so, proceed with caution. Is your water heater set to 120 degrees? That is the typical factory setting, and it’s usually the recommended setting. Unless the temperature is below the recommended setting for some reason, it is probably not the best idea to adjust the thermostat on your water heater, and here are a few reasons why:

  • Raising the temperature just ten degrees can increase the risk of scalding or burn injuries.
  • In less than a second, water that is at 160 degrees can inflict second or third-degree burns.
  • A child or elderly person could be harmed at even lower temperatures.

If the thermostat is simply not working on an electric water heater, then you might need to replace it. For a gas water heater, the real problem could be the gas valve or thermocouple, either of which could need replacement. If your heater was made in the 1990’s, then the issue could be a faulty dip tube that needs to be replaced. Or maybe your water heater tank is simply too small to handle all that is demanded of it. For example, a 40-gallon tank can be enough for two or three people, but if a household increases in size, or if you have children or teens in your house, the hot water can simply run out on you. In this case, the real solution could be installing a bigger tank.

Check the Water Heater Elements

On an electric water heater, there will usually be two elements. If the hot water is gone, you could test these elements to see if they are working. You may need an element tester or multimeter as well as a voltage tester, plus ample experience, but it is often better to call a plumbing professional instead if you think the electric elements are the problem. But before you test the elements or call a plumber, first check the breaker to see if it tripped. If that is not the problem, then you will need to:

  1. Turn off the power to the water heater, otherwise, it will not be safe to test the elements.
  2. Then you can take off the cover to the upper element and thermostat, and take out the insulation and protective cover.
  3. You should see two wires atop the thermostat. You can turn on the power and very cautiously utilize a non-contact tester to see if there is power.
  4. If there is power, then turn it back off so you can check the elements.
  5. With a voltage tester, you can touch the leads on either pole on the element.
  6. If the contact lights up the tester, then the element is okay. If the tester did not light up, you need to replace that element.

You can use this same test on both the upper and lower elements.

Call an Experienced Kansas City Plumber

Whenever you need expert help for a plumbing problem, contact A-1 Sewer & Septic Service, Inc. No issue is too big or too small for our team of plumbing technicians to tackle. We also offer emergency services on the weekends or evenings. Get your water heater service quote when you call us today!

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