How to Diagnose a Tank Water Heater Problem

Typically, you can tell if your traditional tank water heater is malfunctioning if you experience a lack of hot water. But pinpointing exactly what is wrong can be tougher. Here are some symptoms you can look for to start the process:

Is the water hot for a short time before running cold?

Is the water lukewarm?

Is the water cold all the time?

So what might be causing this problem?

Heating element

If you have an electric water heater, a malfunctioning heating element inside the tank can break and lead to a loss of hot water. Your water may slowly start to cool down due to the heating element being burned out. If you have two elements and the second element fails, you’ll be left with only cold water.

Blown fuse or tripped circuit

If the heating element is not burned out, it may just have flipped off because of a tripped circuit or a blown fuse, so it could be the fuse box.

Broken burner

With a gas water heater, there is a burner unit below the tank that has gas inputs. When these light up, it transfers heat to the water in the tank. If the burner is dirty or corroded, it will have a hard time igniting.

Pilot light

The pilot light is critical to the operation of your water heater. It will ignite your water heater’s burner; if it goes out, there is nothing to heat the water. You can see if the pilot light is out by removing the cover of the water heater and inspecting the light. After following instructions on how to relight it, wait about half an hour or so to let the water in the tank warm up. If it goes out continuously, there is most likely another problem that requires an expert plumbing professional.

Of course, a great alternative is to explore the benefits of a tankless water heater, that gives you hot water on demand. Your Benjamin Franklin Plumbing® of Mount Airy pros will be happy to fill you in on all the benefits of going tankless… just ask!