What is the most common problem with water heaters?

Standing under the shower in cold weather and being hit by cold water is something we all have faced at some point in our lives. Like any other appliance, our cold weather staple can break down anytime. Often the problems are self-evident, either there is no hot water, or you see a pool of water near the heater or appliance starts making weird noises.

When you come across such a situation, you can either call a technician to get it fixed, or you can do it yourself. However, calling a technician means waiting for a day or two and also paying a big fat repair bill. Hence, it is better if you can tackle basic water heater repair problems yourself.  Here are some of the common problems that you might face:

1.  No hot water

There are two types of water heater: gas and electric. Both function in a similar way; only their heat sources are different. A gas heater has a gas furnace, while in an electric heater there are upper and lower electric elements that heat up the water. Before you try anything, try to adjust the temperature dial first and then wait for some time for the water to heat up. If this does not work, then you can try other troubleshooting methods.

With an electric heater, no hot water means that a heating element has failed. This element is usually inexpensive and can be easily replaced. It is also possible that there is an interruption in the power supply; either the circuit is broken, or the fuse is blown.

As for the gas heater, make sure that it is not leaking. If that is the case, then there might be some mineral deposits that are reducing the efficiency of the water heater. Try to flush the water heater to get rid of the deposits.

If that doesn’t work either, then it is possible that the dip tube that supplies cold water to the tank might be damaged because of which cold water gets mixed with the hot water.

2.  Inadequate hot water

Another common problem is that it is hot but not enough of it. This is probably because the capacity of the water heater is not able to meet your hot water demands. Remember that 75 percent of the heater’s capacity is for hot water. For example, if the capacity of your water heater is 40 gallons, then it will be able to provide you around 30 gallons of hot water.

If there is enough capacity and your heater is not undersized, then one of the heating element might be not working properly. If there is a constant supply of lukewarm water, then it indicates a faulty upper heating element, and if the hot water finishes too quickly, then the lower heating element might not be working.

3.  Rusty or smelly water

So the temperature is fine, but the watercolor is not, then either there is corrosion happening in your water heater or in your house pipes.

Another situation is that the water is smelling like rotten eggs. When this happens, there might be some bacteria collecting in the heater, and you need to flush the heater. If that doesn’t solve the problem, then the anode rod might not be working properly, and you need to replace it.

If the water smells like garlic, then it your pilot must have gone out. Turn OFF the valve and wait for the smell to disappear. Once the smell is completely gone, then turn on the pilot again. Remember, DO NOT light the pilot if the gas smell is strong. It is better to call a technician in this case.

4.  Noisy water heater

In some cases, the water heater starts to make unusual noises. When that happens, it is usually because either the metal parts have expanded or contracted or there are high chances that minerals have deposited in the heater. Flush your heater regularly to avoid this situation.

In case flushing does not solve your problem, it is because the sediments are too large to pass through the flushing. It is highly recommended to consult a technician for water heater repair.

5.  Leaky water heater

A leaky water heater is usually caused by corroded pipes and heater or some loose parts. A leaky water heater can cause significant damage to your walls. Try to find any loose parts and tighten them up with a wrench. In the case of rusty pipes, you will have to replace them. While you find a solution, turn off the power and drain the tank completely to stop it from leaking.


Water heater problems are quite common, and hence once you know the basics, it is easier to diagnose what the issue is. Sometimes a problem may seem simple, but might not be easier to resolve. If you have tapped all the troubleshooting methods, call a consultant for a checkup, or you might end up losing the entire heater.

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