How To Troubleshoot Your Hot Water Heater

Water Heater Repair

While many of today’s appliances seem to last just two days longer than their warranty, even those that run well for a long time will eventually wear out and/or have problems. Your hot water heater is one example. Because it’s important to your home, you should be aware of how to proceed when troubleshooting your hot water heater.

First, you may want to have a cursory understanding of how a hot water heater works.  Simply put, your hot water heater routes heated water through the plumbing system to wherever it is needed. Although there are several different types of hot water heaters, a traditional hot water heater is a tall cylindrical tank that houses the heated water. Electric heat pump water heaters are an option, but are more expensive to buy and retrofit into an older home.

Most homes have either a gas or electric hot water heater. For each, a number of issues can occur. The table below advises you on troubleshooting your hot water heater, whether gas or electric.




Hot water is discolored; buildup of rust and/or sediment

Drain water and flush before refilling.


Hot water pressure is low; could be the hot water heater itself or to do with the faucet.

Have a qualified professional troubleshoot the issue and make necessary corrections.


Runs out of hot water

Check the thermostat, gas control valve, and burner orifice. 

Check for sediment buildup, defective heating elements, or improperly wired thermostats.

Water is too hot

Check temperature-setting control. Also check thermostat.

Check temperature-setting control. Also check thermostat and grounded heating element.

There are issues, of course, that are specific to gas heaters.  These include but are not necessarily limited to:

  • burner flame problems
  • pilot light won’t light
  • pilot light won’t stay lit

While it might be easy to determine what the problem is after troubleshooting your hot water heater, knowing how to correct that problem is often a totally different issue. If you have little to no knowledge of how a hot water heater works and are not sure how to fix the issue, you should contact a professional technician who can correct the issue with no danger to you or your home.

Qualified and properly trained individuals, who initially may seem like an unnecessary expense, quite often actually save you money in the long run. While “DIY” often seems like a good avenue of approach, all too often people find through trial and error that they have wasted time and money and then have to call in the pros after all.

If you need your hot water heater or any other heating and cooling elements at your home checked, feel free to contact us with questions or to set up an appointment.

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