4 Best Water Heater Troubleshooting Tips To Save Your Heater

water heater troubleshooting

Water heater troubleshooting can be a tricky task, but it doesn’t have to be. You can identify and solve common water heater issues with the proper knowledge and understanding. This article will provide you with the basics of water heater troubleshooting – from identifying the problem to taking the necessary steps to fix it. 


1. What are the most common water heater problems?

Common water heater problems include insufficient hot water, excessive noise, and leaking. If you’re having any of these issues, the first step is to understand the type of water heater you have. Different water heater types require different approaches to troubleshooting and repair.

2. What should I do if my water heater isn’t heating water?

If your water heater isn’t heating water, you should first check the thermostat. The thermostat may need to be adjusted, or it could be broken and need to replace. You can also check the power source to ensure it’s connected and working correctly.

3. How do I reset my water heater?

If your water heater isn’t heating water or is operating erratically, you may need to reset it. To do this, you’ll need to locate the reset button on the unit. This button is usually found near the thermostat and can identify quickly by its red or black color.

4. What is the right way to maintain a water heater

The right way to keep your water heater running efficiently is to perform regular maintenance. This includes flushing the tank every 6 months to eliminate sediments, checking the temperature and pressure relief valve, and inspecting the water lines for leaks.

Different Types of Water Heaters

Before starting water heater troubleshooting, it’s crucial to understand the different types of water heaters available. There are three main types of water heaters: electric, gas, and tankless. Each type has advantages and disadvantages, so it’s essential to understand your type and how it works.

water heater troubleshooting

1. Electric Water Heaters 

Electric water heaters use electricity to generate heat, which will then transfer to the water. These tanks range in size from 20 to 80 gallons and are the most common type of water heater. They are relatively easy to maintain and are the least expensive type of water heater, yet they often require a more significant initial investment. 

2. Gas Water Heaters 

Gas water heaters run on either propane or natural gas. They are usually more expensive than electric water heaters, but they can be more efficient in the long run and will heat the water more quickly. However, they are more costly to install and require more maintenance.

3. Tankless Water Heaters 

Tankless water heaters are the most energy-efficient type of water heater. They don’t use a tank to store hot water; instead, they heat the water on demand as you need it. These water heaters are more expensive than electric or gas water heaters, as they are much more efficient.

Now that you are aware of the different types of water heaters available, you can start troubleshooting your water heater.

Common Parts of a Water Heater 

If your water heater has significant issues, you may need to replace some parts. Here are some of the most common parts of a water heater and how to replace them:

water heater troubleshooting

Thermostat: The thermostat regulates the temperature of the water in the tank. 

Pressure-relief valve: The pressure-relief valve is an integral part of your water heater and can cause problems if it’s not functioning correctly. 

Anode rod: The anode rod helps protect the tank from corrosion, so it’s essential to check it regularly. 

Heating element: As its name suggests, the heating element is responsible for heating the water in the tank. 

Following these steps, you can easily replace any parts causing problems with your water heater.

Common Water Heater Problems

If you’re having trouble with your water heater, the first step is to identify the signs of common water heater problems. This will let you narrow down the issue and focus on the right parts of your water heater. Here are some of the most common water heater problems and their symptoms:

1. Leaks 

Leaks are one of the most common water heater problems, ranging from minor drips to significant floods. If you notice any water near your water heater, it could be a sign of a leak. 

water heater troubleshooting

Depending on the leak, you may need to replace the pressure relief valve, check for failed connections or connections that have come loose with time, repair a cracked heat exchanger, or replace corroded components.

2. Strange Noises

It’s normal for your water heater to produce some noise when operating. This is especially true as the colder weather requires your water heater to work harder to supply you with the warm water your home needs. 

water heater troubleshooting

But, there are also some noises that water heaters make that point to a significant issue. If you hear strange noises from your water heater, it is likely a problem with the internal components of your water heater. Common noises can include hissing, gurgling, or banging. 

3. Discolored or Smelly Water 

Have you seen that your water heater, primarily when you use hot water, has a foggy appearance and an unpleasant sewer odor?

water heater troubleshooting

If the water from your water heater is discolored or has a strange smell, it could be a sign of a problem. A buildup of minerals or sediment could cause this or signal a leak.

4. Low Water Pressure

You turn the hot water on, but the shower isn’t relaxing. Sounds similar?

water heater troubleshooting

If you’re noticing that your water pressure is lower than usual, it could be a sign of a problem with your water heater. This could cause by sediment buildup or a faulty pressure-relief valve.

5. Erratic Temperature

It can cause concern when your water heater’s temperature fluctuates erratically. Suddenly, you may find yourself with either too hot or too cold water, leaving you with an uncomfortable showering experience. 

water heater troubleshooting

Your water heater can malfunction if your water temperature fluctuates between hot and cold. It’s essential to identify the cause of the fluctuation immediately, so you can take the necessary steps to restore the temperature of your water heater.

A faulty pressure-relief valve or a fault with the thermostat could be the reason for this.

If you’re noticing any of these symptoms, it could be a sign of an issue with your water heater, and it’s time to start troubleshooting.

4 Best Water Heater Troubleshooting Tips

Now that you know the common issues a water heater may encounter let’s look at some DIY water heater troubleshooting tips.

1. Water Leaks

Although many potential causes of water leaks exist, faulty valves and plumbing connections are the most typical offenders. As leaking water can be highly destructive to a house, it is essential to mend the leak immediately.

However, before beginning, it is essential to determine if the moisture results from a leak or simply from condensation. Condensation is nothing to worry about; it usually occurs when the water heater is hot, and the room is cool. To be sure, you can wipe and dry the heater, then observe the exterior for any moisture. If ‘sit spread evenly across the surface, condensation is likely the cause. 

Or else you can begin by following the below steps to fix the leak.

Step 1: Turn The Power Off

Once you confirm that your water heater is leaking, the next step is to turn off the electricity immediately. Working on your water heater while connected to its power source is not recommended. 

water heater troubleshooting

If you have an electric water heater, locate the circuit breaker and make sure to switch the water heater switch to OFF.

A gas water heater has a specific valve near the gas line at the bottom of the tank that intends to use to turn it off.

Step 2: Turn Off The Flow of Cold Water.

The next step is to stop the cold water supply to your water heater.

Your water heater has two pipes connected to the top of the tank. Generally, the cold inlet pipe has a shutoff valve regulating the water flow. 

water heater troubleshooting

The cold water inlet pipe indicates a blue color (for cold water), and the warm outlet pipe is red (for hot water). This pipe allows cold water to be supplied to the water tank while the warm outlet pipe carries the hot water from the water heater into the house. 

If the pipes are not color-coded, you can differentiate between them by simply touching them and feeling which is cool and which is warm.

If the shutoff valve has a wheel that can rotate, turn it toward the clock. On the other hand, if it is a ball valve, move the handle to the opposite side, completing a full 180-degree turn.

Step 3: Find The Source Of The Water Leak

Once the water and electricity are off, locate the leak’s source to diagnose and fix it. Begin by noticing where the water accumulates and immediately clean it up. If you observe the water at the same place again, you will know where to start looking into the issue of your water heater leaking.

1. Water Leak At Top Of Water Heater: Check Pipes

Have you observed water dripping at the top of your water heater? 

water heater troubleshooting

Examine the two tubes placed on the upper part of your water heater. As mentioned, they are known as the cold water intake and hot water outlet pipes. These pipes are responsible for bringing water into the tank to be heated and then pushing it into your home for use. 

If the fixtures around them, or the connections connecting them, are not tight, this could cause leakage. In this case, you can use a pipe wrench to make the pipes more secure.

2. Water Leaking From The Side or Bottom.

If you observe water trickling from the side, it is likely the Temperature, and Pressure Relief Valve, also referred to as the T&P valve. With every water heater, T&P valves are available. It is a security feature meant to discharge water if the water pressure becomes too high. 

water heater troubleshooting

If water is dripping from the T&P valve, initially ensure the temperature is not too high. If the temperature is too high, this may cause excessive pressure and trigger the safety system. 

The Department of Energy states that the optimal temperature for a tank-style water heater should be 120 degrees Fahrenheit. However, a faulty valve is probably to blame if the water heater is set to a temperature higher than this and still leaks. In this case, contacting a professional to replace the valve is better.

Your water heater has a drain valve at the base intended to empty the water heater for maintenance. If the water comes from the bottom of the water heater, check the valve to ensure it is completely closed. If it is still leaking, it might not be secure. You can use a pipe wrench to try to tighten the valve slightly. 

water heater troubleshooting

However, it would be best not to over-tighten it, as this could worsen the leaking. If it is still dripping after troubleshooting, you may need to replace the drain valve.

If there is an unexplained accumulation of water near the base of your water heater, it may have a crack. A repair service will not be able to help in this case, and you will have to get a new water heater.

2. Strange Noises

Before troubleshooting your noisy water heater, it’s essential to understand what could be causing the noise in the first place. 

Several possible causes for a noisy water heater include sediment buildup, a failing anode rod, a faulty heating element, and a clogged pressure relief valve. Identifying the cause of the noise will help you determine the best way to fix it.

1. Flush The Tank

I recommend flushing the water heater to determine if sediment accumulation is the cause of the noise. It is best to call a professional plumber if it has been long since its last flushing. They possess the proficiency and understanding to accomplish the task properly and quickly.

Step 1: Shut Off The Power Source

Before beginning, it is essential to deactivate the fuel or electrical power source. Refer to the directions above for adequately turning off the power. Check the manufacturer’s manual to ensure you do it properly, if there is one.

Refer to the directions above for adequately turning off the power.

Step 2: Switch Off The Cold Water Supply.

To stop the cold water flow, look for the valve labeled blue. When flushing, it’s a good idea to switch off the water heater overnight so that the tank can cool down. Doing this will stop you from getting hurt by hot water.

Step 3: Attach Hose And Keep Hot Water Running.

Take a garden hose that is quite lengthy and big in size. Connect one end of the hose to the drain valve for draining and the other end to a secure spot where the water can flow out. 

water heater troubleshooting

Turn on the hot water from the nearest faucet when you begin draining. This will help ensure there is enough air in the tank for the draining to progress smoothly and prevent a vacuum from forming in the pipes.

Step 4: Drain The Hot Water Tank.

Open the drain valve to let the water out while wearing protective gloves. You might notice that the water is discolored, which indicates that the sediments are being flashed out. Continue until the tank is empty while taking precautions at all times since this water may be boiling.

Step 5: Flush The Water Tank and Turn Off The Faucet.

Turn on the cold water supply to remove any remaining sediments in the tank once the hot water has run out. 

water heater troubleshooting

Continue until the water coming out is clear. Once finished, shut off the hot water faucet, unplug the hose, and turn off the drain valve.

Step 6: Fill In The Tank and Turn On The Power Source.

To refill the tank once more, open the cold water supply valve. To ensure no air bubbles in your lines, turn on all the hot water faucets in your home until the expected water pressure returns. Once the tank is full of water and the pressure is normal, you can turn on the power supply.

2. Check the Pressure Relief Valve

This valve lets out pressure from the tank if it rises beyond a certain level. If the valve has a blockage or is not working correctly, it can produce a loud banging or popping noise. To examine the valve, shut off the power to the water heater and analyze it for any evidence of harm.

3. Check the Anode Rod

The anode rod’s purpose is to deter corrosion and prevent rusting of the tank. If the anode rod fails, the tank may vibrate, creating a loud pounding noise. As a result, check the anode rod and look for corrosion. Replace the rod if you see any corrosion symptoms.

water heater troubleshooting

To replace the anode rod, follow these instructions;

Step 1: Turn Off The Power or Gas Supply And Water

To ensure safety, switch off the electricity at the circuit breaker if you use an electric heater, and shut off the gas supply if you have a gas heater. Additionally, remember to close the water supply valve.

Step 2: Locate Anode Rod

Generally, the anode rod can be found on the top of the water heater, though some models may have it placed on the side. 

water heater troubleshooting

It usually appears as a six-sided plug screwed into the heater. In some cases, the anode is connected to the hot water outlet port and forms a pipe nipple.

Step 3: Drain Water From the Tank

Remove some water from the tank to simplify removing the old anode rod. Empty either 2 gallons (7.5 liters) or 10% to 15% of the tank’s capacity as a rule of thumb. 

Securely rid the water by attaching one end of the garden hose to the heater’s bottom valve and directing the other to the desired location. Be careful not to contact the water when draining it, as it can be very hot.

Drain the tank until the water level is below the anode rod port if the anode is on the side. After that, shut off the outlet and detach the hose.

Step 4: Disassemble the Anode Rod

Remove the anode rod from the water heater with a socket or boxed end wrench.

The anode rod can be easier to remove if it is tightened first before being loosened. Avoid penetrating substances since they could enter your water heater and contaminate the water. 

When attempting to remove the anode rod from the water heater, pay attention to what happens to determine whether it is still in excellent condition. It still functions properly if it is too big to remove from the water heater. Removing it from the water heater will be simple if it is entirely worn away.

Step 5: Purchase And Install The New Rod

Get a new anode rod for your heater. Using an aluminum rod rather than a magnesium one could extend the life of your heater as aluminum generates a stronger current. Install the rod by inserting it and turning it until it can no longer be turned by hand. 

water heater troubleshooting

Then, using a socket wrench, tighten it even more. While doing this, watch out that the water heater doesn’t turn or twist.

Step 6: Activate the Water Heater

Close the drain valve and turn on the cold water faucet. Open the hot water valve you used to drain the tank initially and let it run until it is empty of air. 

water heater troubleshooting

As air exits from the faucet, noises like spitting and hissing will hear. Turn on the power of the gas or electricity once more, and then adjust the thermostat to the appropriate water temperature.

3. Discolored or Smelly Water

Finding the cause of the problem is the first step in getting rid of the cloudy and odorous water in your water heater. Finding the cause of the problem is the first step in getting rid of the dirty and smelly water in your water heater.

water heater troubleshooting

Check to see if the issue is limited to the hot water lines in the plumbing system. Spend time examining the hot and cold taps for any evidence of debris, discoloration, or odors. And if you’ve confirmed that your tank-style water heater is the source of the unpleasant smell, think about the following tips.

1. Flush The Tank

A buildup of sediment at the bottom of your water heater’s tank is the most frequent cause of cloudy and smelly water. Flushing the tank regularly is the best way to eliminate sediment buildup in your water heater. 

You can do this by draining the tank (follow the steps mentioned above to flush it) and then filling it with fresh water. Silts accumulating in the tank will push away to move using fresh water.

2. Replace With Powered Anode

When identifying the source of hot water that smells foul, it is preferable to check the water heater’s anode rod. Magnesium anode rods are usually submerged in water. The only goal of this magnesium rod is to prevent rusting of your water heater. 

water heater troubleshooting

These corrosion agents are attracted to and neutralize the metal-feeding molecules, making the anode rod their preferred meal while ignoring any metal that might accidentally be exposed via fractures in the glass layer and can result in discoloration and foul odor.

So, replacing your magnesium anode with a powered anode rod is best if you encounter discoloration and foul odor in your water, even after flushing the tank.

As the electrically powered anode rod is of insoluble titanium that won’t dissolve and add more dirt to the bottom of the tank, sulfur odors in hot water can eliminate in just a few hours.

4. Low Water Pressure

Several factors might contribute to low water pressure in your water heater.

The most common cause for low water pressure is a clogged water line. This is due to debris or sediment building up over time and blocking the water flow. Other reasons for low water pressure include a broken pressure relief valve, a faulty thermostat, a blocked aerator, or a broken water heater tank.

In some cases, low water pressure can also cause by a lack of water in the tank. In any case, it’s crucial to identify the cause of the low water pressure before attempting to fix it.

water heater troubleshooting

Remember to check the aerator for any blockages. If there are any blockages, these will need to clear. Dust and debris in the aerator can also lead to low water pressure, so confirm that your faucet’s aerator is clean and is not causing the low pressure!

Step-by-Step Guide to Fix Low Water Pressure

Once you have identified the cause of the low water pressure, it’s time to start fixing it. Here is a step-by-step guide to help you get your water heater back up and running:

Step 1: Shut off the power to the water heater. This is an essential step, as it prevents any further damage from being done.

Step 2: Check the pressure relief valve. If the pressure relief valve is not working correctly, it should replace.

Step 3: Turn the power back on to the water heater.

If the pressure is still low, you may need to adjust the thermostat. To adjust the thermostat to the desired level, follow these steps:

Adjust The Thermostat

To adjust the thermostat to the desired level, follow these steps:

Step 1: Turn Off The Power.

With a gas storage water heater, the thermostat dial can find on the gas valve near the bottom of the tank. On the other hand, thermostats for electric water heaters will be present behind screw-on plates or panels.

Before removing or opening the panels, turn off the power to the water heater as a security precaution.

water heater troubleshooting

Remember that an electric water heater may have two thermostats—one for the upper and one for the bottom heating element.

Step 2: Find The Current Temperature.

Using a thermometer, measure the hot water’s initial temperature at the faucet nearest the water heater, as the thermostat dials are often inaccurate. After marking the beginning temperature with a marker, turn the thermostat on your water heater down.

Step 3: Measure And Adjust.

Before you reach the ideal temperature, you might need to make a few modifications. After waiting a couple of hours, measure the water temperature again at the faucet closest to the water heater. If the temperature is right for you, note it on the water heater thermostat with a marker so that you may change it if necessary in the future.

5. Erratic Temperature

Unexpected temperature fluctuations can cause by a variety of factors, from a malfunctioning thermostat to a damaged heating element. Knowing the source of the problem is essential for selecting the right solution.

water heater troubleshooting

1. Adjust The Thermostat

Checking and making the necessary adjustments to the thermostat is the first step. You can adjust the temperature setting to the proper level if the thermostat is not set correctly. Also, it’s crucial to check that the thermostat is in good condition and that there is no damage or failure.

2. Flushing The Water Heater

Another step in resolving unexpected temperature fluctuations in your water heater is to flush the water heater. Over time, sediment and debris can build up in the water heater, leading to temperature fluctuations.

This helps ensure that the water is at the desired temperature and that there are no further temperature fluctuations.

Safety Tips When Troubleshooting Your Water Heater

Troubleshooting Water heater troubleshooting can be dangerous, so taking the proper safety precautions is essential. Turn off the electricity or gas before attempting any repairs. Wear protective gear like safety glasses and gloves to protect yourself from burns and other injuries. And always switch off the power before touching any electrical parts.

What to Do if You Can’t Troubleshoot Your Water Heater?

If you’ve tried water heater troubleshooting and still have issues, it’s time to call a professional. A qualified technician can inspect your water heater and diagnose the problem. They can also make necessary repairs to get your water heater up and running again.

water heater troubleshooting

When hiring a professional, make sure to do your research. Check customer reviews and ask for references. Ensure that the technician is licensed and insured. And always get a written estimate before the technician begins any work.

How to Maintain Your Water Heater?

Regular maintenance is the best way to ensure your water heater functions correctly and efficiently. Here are a few maintenance tips to keep in mind:

  • Check the temperature settings: Ensure you have correctly set the temperature settings on your water heater. This will help ensure your water is hot enough without wasting energy.
  • Flush your water heater tank at least once a year to remove any sediment buildup. This will help keep your water heater running efficiently.
  • Check for signs of corrosion or rust. If you notice any signs of corrosion or rust on your water heater, contact a professional for repairs.
  • Check the pressure relief valve and ensure that it is working correctly. This will help prevent a dangerous buildup of pressure in your water heater.

Maintaining your water heater is integral to keeping your home safe and reliable. It helps keep your heater running efficiently and prevents it from draining energy and money. 

Tips for Preventing Water Heater Problems

In addition to regular maintenance, there are a few things you can do to help prevent water heater problems. Here are a few tips:

water heater troubleshooting
  • Make sure your pipes are appropriately insulated. This will help keep your water hot and reduce the energy required to heat it.
  • Use cold water for washing clothes and dishes. This will reduce the amount of hot water you use, which can help extend the life of your water heater.
  • If your water is hard, install a water softener. This will help reduce sediment buildup in your water heater and make it last longer.
  • Make sure the anode rod in your water heater is in good condition. This rod helps prevent corrosion, which can lead to costly repairs.

One of the essential appliances in every home is the water heater. It’s crucial to regularly clean and inspect them for reliable hot water.

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Water heaters are essential appliances that provide hot water for showers, laundry, and other household tasks. Unfortunately, water heaters can experience problems ranging from minor annoyances to major disasters. If you need help with your water heater, it can be challenging to know where to start when it comes to water heater troubleshooting.

This guide has provided tips and tricks for water heater troubleshooting so that you can get your hot water flowing again. With the proper knowledge, you’ll be able to identify and solve any water heater issue quickly and easily.

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