When you turn on your hot water tap, you expect hot water to come out. So, what if that water is only lukewarm, or worse yet, completely cold? This generally points to a problem with your hot water heater. Here are some of the most common problems that can cause a hot water heater to stop working, along with a look at how plumbers typically handle them.
Too much sediment in the tank.
This is the simplest explanation for your lack of hot water. Usually when sediment is to blame for your problems, your water will still get warm, but it won't get hot. The sediment reduces direct contact between the heating element or burner and the water. Sediment does naturally build up in hot water heaters over time. It settles out of the water — especially if you have hard water. Luckily, a plumber can get rid of the sediment by simply draining some water from the bottom of the tank. This will allow the water to heat up more effectively. Going forward, draining a few gallons from the bottom of the tank each year will help keep this problem from popping up again.
Broken heating element.
If you have an electric hot water heater, it is possible that the heating element has simply broken. The electrical connection may have failed or shorted out due to corrosion. Sometimes, a plumber can replace the heating element without having to replace the entire hot water heater. But if your hot water heater is already on the older side, this may be a good reason to replace it. Replacing a heating element can cost almost as much as replacing the whole appliance.
Stuck TPR valve.
Hot water heaters have a valve called the TPR valve. TPR stands for "temperature pressure release." If the water inside your hot water heater gets too hot or is put under too much pressure, this valve will let a little water and air escape. But, if the valve gets stuck, your hot water heater may not heat at all. It turns itself off as a safety feature. Your plumber can replace the TPR valve. It's a small and inexpensive part. With a new, well-functioning TPR valve, your water heater should function properly again.
Having cold or lukewarm water come out of your hot water tap is not a welcome surprise. Luckily, this is an issue a plumber can almost always solve for you. For more information on water heater repair, contact a professional near you.