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The Cure for the Broken Water Heater Blues

Few things are more frustrating to endure than an ice-cold morning shower. That’s why we want to make sure you’re prepared for the next time you encounter this situation and find yourself saying,

“I have no hot water! What should I do?”

Read on for a quick primer explaining how to diagnose a broken water heater’s issue, what you can do to fix it yourself, and when it’s time to call in a professional.

Diagnosing the problem

We already mentioned how a broken water heater can start your day off on the wrong foot, but there’s much more at stake than a cold shower when this appliance goes down. We use hot water for all kinds of things around the house, from doing laundry and the dishes to washing our hands.

Here are the first few things to check if you suspect your water heater isn’t working:

  • If you have an electric water heater, you should first confirm the appliance is drawing power. If you have a gas-powered water heater, check that the pilot light remains on.
  • Next, look closely around the base of the water heater to check for leaks or areas where the tank may be corroded.
  • Listen for any strange noises or knocks that may be coming from the unit.
  • Examine the thermostat to ensure it’s set correctly.

Fixing the problem

Given that water heaters come in a variety of models, with some powered by gas, some by electric, or some by oil, and newer versions utilizing a tankless design, fixing the problem isn’t always so simple. However, there are times when even the average homeowner can take things into their own hands to restore their hot water.

In instances where DIY is an option, here are some of the most common fixes:

  • For electric water heaters, head to your home’s service panel for a visual inspection to confirm the water heater’s circuit breaker hasn’t tripped. If it has, flip it back, wait a few minutes, and check your water’s temperature. If you have a gas water heater and the pilot light is out, relight it per the manufacturer’s instructions (typically found on a sticker on the heater itself).
  • If you happen to find water on the floor, try tightening the unit’s valves. If the problem stems from a leaky pipe, pick up some self-fusing tape from your local hardware store to form a compression seal over the leak.
  • If you put your ear up to the unit and hear unusual noises, there’s a good chance what you’re hearing is minerals or hard-water accumulation rattling around. In this case, you’ll want to drain the tank and clean out any remaining sediment.

  • If the thermostat is too low, it may need an adjustment. You can typically find the thermostat towards the bottom of the water heater (see image for reference). The default setting for most hot water heaters is 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Anything higher than that could pose a threat to the safety of those in your home, especially children.

Prime Pro Tip

To help ensure your water heater keeps running efficiently, flush the tank once a year. This helps remove sentiment from the bottom of the tank which can build up over time. Check out these shots of a 3-year old water heater we cut in half—a great example of a water heater failing before its time.

When to call the professionals

Being tasked with identifying and fixing a problem with the hot water heater can be intimidating for a lot of homeowners.

Here are some examples of situations where it might be best to call on your friendly neighborhood plumber:

  • If you’ve tried everything you can think of, but the water still won’t get hot.
  • If you aren’t sure how to reignite the pilot light.
  • If you aren’t comfortable or don’t know how to drain the unit.
  • If you suspect a circuitry issue is at fault.
  • If you find tank corrosion and a replacement is required.

Of course, there are many other reasons someone might feel inclined to call a plumber for help. The good news is that no matter what your reason might be, the willing and able team at Prime is here when you need us. Remember: Save time, call Prime!


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