Charlotte Plumber DIY Series: How to Troubleshoot a Broken Water Heater: Part I

Charlotte tankless water heater

Is your electric water heater not working, and you don’t know why? Listed here are some problems you may be having and how to troubleshoot a broken water heater and then repair it.

Let's take a look at these problems and what possible causes and repairs you can try:

  • No hot water
  • Defective hot water
  • Water temperature too hot
  • Leaky pipe connection
  • Leaky water storage tank
  • Rust colored water
  • Rotten egg odor
  • Low rumbling or popping noise
  • Higher pitched whining

NOTE: Make sure to prepare safely for the job before any troubleshooting is done on the water heater:

  • Shut the power off to the electric water heater by turning off the circuit breaker or fuse powering the heater.

Problem 1: No hot water

Potential Causes

  • Shortage of power to heating elements (from either a tripped circuit breaker or blown fuse handling water heater circuit).
  • Defective electric thermostat
  • Flawed upper electric heating element

Potential Repairs

  • Exchange the blown fuse or reset the tripped circuit breaker
  • Verify power is being provided to the electric water heating element thermostat.
  • Check the upper heating element and replace if required
  • Exchange thermostat or heating element if power is being provided to electric heating element thermostat

Problem 2: Defective hot water

Potential Causes

  • Water heater could be undersized for water heating demands
  • Crossed cold and hot water connections from defective plumbing installation
  • Flawed electric lower or upper heating element or high or low heating element thermostat. (Continuous lukewarm water during a shower is suggestive of a defective upper heating element, while short duration of hot water during a shower is suggestive of a defective lower heating element).

Potential Repairs

  • Check that hot water demand does not surpass capacity of water heater. 75% of the water heater’s capacity should be hot water (e.g., a 40 gallon WH should be used for a demand of 30 gallons).
  • Inspect for crossed connection in the water heater by turning off water supply. Afterwards, open a hot water faucet. If there is water flow, then there is a crossed connection somewhere.
  • Make sure there is power and electrical continuity at the lower and upper heating elements. If needed, exchange the water-heating element. Be sure to clear the tank of any sediment beforehand.
  • Check for power at upper electrical upper thermostat, if elements test successfully. Then if the power is successful, check lower thermostat, and replace if necessary.

Problem 3: Water temperature too hot

Potential Causes

  • Setting on the heating unit thermostat is too high

Potential Repairs

  • Observe upper and lower heating element thermostat settings and lower if set too high. Normal setting is between 110 degrees F and 140 degrees F.

How ER Services Can Help

Still unsure what is wrong with your water heater? Check out Part II of our water heater troubleshooting series here.

Need Charlotte Plumbing Services?

Are you interested in more information about water heater repair?

Looking to call a Charlotte emergency plumber?

Need assistance or advice regarding a tankless hot water heater?

E.R. Services is open 24/7, 365 days a year. You don’t need to take time off work or wait until the morning because we never charge extra for nights or weekends. Just give us a call at 704-269-1066 or use our online contact form.

Learn more about Charlotte tank water heaters here.

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Article Summary

Quick question & answer: Why isn’t my water heater producing hot water?

Your water heater isn’t producing hot water because of a shortage of power to heating elements, a defective electric thermostat, or a flawed upper electric heating element. You can attempt the following repairs:

  • Exchange blown fuse or reset tripped circuit breaker
  • Verify that power IS going to thermostat
  • Check/replace upper heating element
  • Exchange thermostat if power IS working

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