Water Heater Repair Basics

Your water heater is an essential part of your home. When it goes wrong, it can have a big impact on your life.

Water Heater Repair

If your water heater is acting up, you should contact a professional like Clearwater Plumbing. However, there are some things that you can do yourself to keep the issue from worsening.

The thermostat is a component of your water heater that controls its temperature. It works with gas-fired and electric water heaters in different ways, but its main function is to maintain the desired temperature of your home’s hot water.

Your thermostat is a mechanical device that allows you to set the temperature of your hot water without having to get up and touch the dial. Thermostats are not intended to be accurate, but they’re calibrated within a range that is appropriate for your needs.

A wide temperature difference between the set point on your thermostat and the actual temperature of your hot water is a sign that it needs to be replaced. This can occur for a number of reasons, but the most common are old age, misuse, or manufacturing defects.

To test the thermostat, turn off the power to your water heater and remove the access panel. Lift and secure the insulation to keep it from obscuring your view, then disconnect the wires. You can use a digital multimeter to test the thermostat for continuity.

The meter should display either a voltage of zero or a voltage of one when the thermostat passes this test. No voltage or reading of one indicates that the thermostat has no continuity and should be repaired or replaced.

Alternatively, a reading of zero ohms or no resistance is a clear indication that the thermostat is working properly. If the meter reads near zero ohms, that means there’s no resistance between the two terminals when the water is at the set temperature.

You can also test the heating elements of your water heater to make sure that they’re not working improperly or causing problems with your water heater. Disconnect the power wires to each of the heating elements, then touch a lead of your digital multimeter to the terminal of each heating element and the other to the terminal of the thermostat.

If your water heater’s thermostat has a reset button or circuit breaker, these safety devices can help prevent electrical shock by cutting off the current when they detect too much power. If either the reset button or circuit breaker is repeatedly tripping, then they need to be replaced.

The element is a key component of the water heater, and it controls many aspects of the system. Its function is to convert electricity into heat and distribute that heat throughout the tank. When it breaks down, the system is not able to produce enough heat to warm the water.

Elements can be replaced without the need to drain the tank, and they are inexpensive and widely available. It’s recommended that you replace an element before the issue gets worse, as it can lead to other problems.

Most full-sized residential water heaters have two heating elements, one on top and one at the bottom. Each element serves a different purpose, and if either fails, the water will not heat as efficiently.

To replace a faulty element, first, turn off the power to the water heater by turning off its circuit breaker or removing the fuse if your system uses fuses. Next, clean the gasket around where the element fits on the tank. Remove the bolts if your water heater has a flange-type heating element, or twist the screw-in type with a wrench until free.

Once the element is loose, carefully pull it out of the tank. Be sure to flush the tank with clean water before replacing the heating element. Mineral sediment that collects at the bottom of the tank can cause the heating element to wear out. Regular flushing can prevent this from occurring in the future.

Some corrosive or rusty materials can also impede the function of the element and should be removed before replacing it. A wire brush or sandpaper can help you remove all of this material so the new heating element will seal properly.

After replacing the element, reassemble your water heater and check for any signs of failure. If you are confident that the water heater is functioning correctly, you can reinstall the thermostat if it has one.

If the water heater doesn’t have a thermostat, you can use an electrical continuity tester to see if the element is working. This tool can be purchased for about $10 and is useful for testing both elements in a water heater.

The dip tube, also called the cold water inlet, is a critical component of your water heater. It transports incoming cold water directly to the bottom of the tank, where it’s heated. Without a dip tube, the cold water would mix with the hot water at the top of the tank, making your home’s faucets deliver lukewarm water rather than hot.

In most homes, the cold water inlet on your water heater is located at the bottom of the tank, near the heating elements and burners. If this inlet isn’t equipped with a dip tube, you’ll need to replace it.

These plastic tubes have to be long enough to carry cold water to the base of the tank for heating, but they’re not designed to be long enough to introduce a lot of sediment into the hot water supply. That’s why they’re only manufactured from non-metallic materials like heat-resistant plastics.

Over time, though, these tubes erode and become clogged with sediment and other debris. Then, they break apart into small pieces that get lodged in your plumbing and faucets.

This happens most commonly in water heaters made between 1993 and 1997. During that time, all major water heater manufacturers bought defective dip tubes from the same manufacturer.

As these faulty dip tubes age, they tend to fall apart and disintegrate into various sizes of white plastic particles that get stuck in your faucets, pipes, filter screens, and strainers. The clumps can clog your hot water heater and prevent it from providing you with sufficient hot water.

If you notice these white clumps in your water, the first thing to do is drain the hot water outlet from the heater tank. This will help remove any clumps of broken plastic and flush out the remaining plastic residue from the system.

Next, inspect the dip tube for any cracks or holes that could cause leaks. If there are any, you may need to replace the dip tube, which should be a cross-linked polyethylene (PEX) version that won’t corrode inside the tank.

After you’ve replaced the dip tube, flush out the tank and pipes with hot water from another source. This will help remove any traces of plastic from the tank and pipes. It can take several gallons of hot water to completely flush the tank and pipes.

The pressure valve is an important part of your water heater. It prevents excess pressure from causing a fire or explosion in the tank. This is because when the water inside the tank heats up, it expands and generates steam. This expansion puts some degree of pressure on the tank walls, but this is expected, and it’s also why your water heater’s safety shutoff valve will automatically shut off your water supply if the pressure is too high.

The water heater pressure relief valve is located on the top or side of your tank, and it consists of a lever that flips up and down and is connected to a pipe that runs the vertical height of the tank to a drainage spot. When you flip the lever, this pipe will receive water that drains out of the tank and into a bucket.

It’s important to test your water heater’s pressure-relief valve regularly to make sure it’s working properly. There are a few simple tests that you can do on your own to see if the valve is leaking, stuck, or needs to be replaced.

To perform a test, you’ll need a few items. First, you’ll need to locate the TPR valve on your water heater. You should be able to find it on the side or top of the tank, and it should be located near the dip tube.

After locating the TPR, remove the drain pipe from it with a plumber’s wrench. Position a bucket under the discharge tube and lift the TPR switch, which will allow you to check the water level in your tank.

If you can’t get any water to drain out of the tube, it is most likely a problem with your TPR valve and needs to be repaired. If you’re not confident in your ability to replace your TPR, contact a plumber.

A good rule of thumb is to flush out your water heater twice a year. That way, you can catch any issues with the pressure-relief valve before they cause a major issue. This can help you save money on your energy bill and keep your water heater running as efficiently as possible.