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A Basic Guide to Hot Water Heater Troubleshooting

Problems with a water heater can be far more serious than just having to take cold showers.  It can actually be a plumbing emergency. Without hot water, many appliances will not work properly. You can’t use the dishwasher or the washing machine. A flawed hot water heater can lead to additional problems with the overall plumbing system. It can be costly to replace or repair.

The good news is that you might be able to address the problem yourself if you know the cause. Some basic plumbing skills can really come in handy.

Here are some common hot water heater problems:

Damaged heating element

The heating element at the bottom of the unit is a cause of many hot water heating problems. If it doesn’t seem to be working, you need to either replace it or buy a whole new heater. If you decide to replace it, make sure you order the same element from the same manufacturer. If that isn’t an option, at least select a product with the same wattage rating as the existing one. The new element should be measured to ensure that it’s a correct fit. Before you begin any repairs, you’ll have to shut down all of the water heater’s inputs. When the heater is shut down, open up the hot water faucets in the sinks around the house to reduce pressure in the tank.

The exact replacement procedure varies depending on the heater model. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

Discoloured or bad-smelling odor

Water discoloration in a heating tank is caused by sediment and rust. Flush the tank and clean it out to see if that helps. If the water smells bad, there is likely a build-up of bacteria in the tank. You’ll want to clean it out with peroxide or chlorine bleach. The anode rod should also be checked, as it could need replacing.


If there is leakage with the water heater, there could be a problem with one or more of the ports for the drain valve, gas control valve, electric heating element, or pressure relief valve. In addition to the ports, check out the plumbing above the hot water heater. If everything checks out and you can’t find the source of the leak, then the tank itself could be leaking. Should this be the case, you will need a new tank.

Hot water pressure is low

This could be caused by any number of problems. There could be a clogging with the faucet supply line, water heater dip tube, faucet water shut off, etc. The faucet stem or aerator and water line leaving the heater could be clogged with sediment. If there is no clogging, the shut-off valve could be malfunctioned, or the water shut at the heater might not be open all the way.

When dealing with low hot water pressure in a faucet, there is a high chance that the aerator is clogged. It can be removed with a pair of pliers. Tap it on the countertop so that the inside parts will come out. Clean it thoroughly, put it back together, and put it back in its place.

Water is dripping from the relief valve

If it’s only a small amount of water dribbling from the valve, either the spring is weak or the water heater pressure is too high, and a thermal expansion tank should be installed.

A large amount of hot water being released from the heat valve means that the heater is too hot. Look over the electric or gas troubleshooting guide provided by the manufacturer for your specific model of water heater.

If you are unable to determine the cause of the hot water heater problem, you may need to call experts for assistance. Waterman is the best choice.