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Electric Hot Water System Heating Issues

A nice hot bath to kick start your day is often desirable. That is why not having hot water on demand can be quite inconvenient and frustrating. You may ask yourself, "why is my electric hot water system not heating?" Situations like this emphasise the usefulness of electric hot water heaters. This article will provide answers to this question.

How Your Water Heater Works

Generally, your water heater works using the following steps:

  • The water heater takes in cold water.
  • Next, it heats the water to the right temperature.
  • After that, the heated water is stored in a storage tank. This way, it is accessible when you turn on your tap.

Water heaters can be of two major types: electric or gas. Electric water heaters usually have a heating element for heating cold water. On the other hand, gas water heaters use natural gas to produce a flame. This flame warms up the water.

Age-related problems

Typically, electric hot water systems can last up to 15 years before they need replacement. However, after ten years or so, they may start breaking down. This can result in increased energy bills. As such, you may consider a replacement.

Electric Water Heater Troubleshooting And Repairs

Sometimes, you may have no hot water coming out of your taps. However, cold water may still be running. Other times, your hot water is too hot or too cold. You may take the steps below for your electric water heater troubleshooting.

Check your circuit breakers

You can shut off the two breakers for the water heater. Then turn them on again. This ought to reset tripped breakers. If this does not solve the problem of tripped breakers, a qualified electrician can check it for you.

Check your power source

Take note that electric water heaters require up to 240 volts of power. Check the connections and wiring of the power supply. Shut off the circuit breakers. As a safety measure, disconnect the power. Then, uncover the junction box. The wires should not be loose, and the nuts should be tight and secure. If they are not, reconnect them and reinstall the cover.

Now, you can turn on the circuit breakers. See if your hot water system is heating. Checking the power supply also ensures that the water heater is correctly plugged in. likewise, you may need to turn on the power point.

Check for blown fuses

A blown-out fuse may need replacement. Take care not to expose bare wires or terminals.

Reset the limit switch

If the limit switch on the upper thermostat has tripped, it can result in a lack of hot water. To reset the limit switch:

  • Shut off the circuit breakers for your water heater.
  • Uncover the upper heating elements and press the red button.
  • Reinstall the cover and turn on the circuit breakers.
  • Check if the water heater is working.

Sometimes, you still need to monitor the water's temperature for overheating. After all, the underlying cause for the trip may be a shorted heating element or a defective thermostat. They can cause the water to overheat and result in scalding. Note that the water's temperature should not exceed 120 degrees Fahrenheit (48 degrees Celsius).

The water is too hot or cold

The thermostat monitors your water's temperature. Then it signals the heating elements to heat up. The water can become too hot if the thermostat is set too high. Check if the thermostat works by comparing the gauge measurement with the water's temperature.

The upper and lower thermostats should be set between 110- and 140 degrees Fahrenheit (43-60 degrees Celsius). Alternatively, get your plumber to examine the thermostat.

The water is not hot enough

If your hot water system is too small for your household, the heater will not be able to meet the demand. Ideally, a water heater should not exceed 75 per cent of its capacity. For example, water heaters with a capacity of 40 litres should not exceed 30 litres per load. Here are some steps to improve your water heater's efficiency.

Faulty heating elements and coils

The heating elements and coils heat cold water inside the unit. However, if they are damaged or broken, you may get cold water. Broken or shorted heating elements can also cause continuous tripping of circuit breakers.

Water leaks from hot water tanks

Water leaks can arise for different reasons. For example, the water pipes may be faulty. Water leaks can even occur directly from hot water tanks. Broken pressure or temperature release valves (tp valves) can also lead to water leaks. Typically, these valves release water when your water gets too hot. This helps to relieve pressure.

However, it should only release small amounts of water. Thus, if you notice a puddle of water, you may need your local plumber to check the water system. They can be competent at fixing common issues such as water leaks and blocked drains.

Checking for damaged dip tubes

The dip tube connects cold water from the pipes to the water heater. Damaged or broken dip tubes end up dumping water at the top of heating tanks instead of funnelling it to the tank's base for heating. As a result, the hot water supply from your faucets and appliances becomes inadequate.

If there is low water pressure

If there is a drop in water pressure in your home, there will be little or no water flow. This affects both hot and cold water. Thus, your home's main water shutoff valve should be fully open. One way to test your water pressure is to attach a water pressure gauge to the hose spigot closest to the water main. Water leaks can also cause low water pressure.

An indication of a functioning water heater is the continuous flow of water. So, check if the cold and hot water flowing from your taps is continuous.

A noisy electric hot water system

You may hear weird noises coming from your hot water system. These sounds may include popping, boiling, or hissing noises. The cause of these weird noises consists of the following:

  • Accumulation of sediments in the tank.
  • The build-up of scales on the electrical heating elements.
  • Overheating in the system.

A DIY measure is to flush the water heater. Then clean the water tank and elements to remove the scales. Similarly, you can install better heating elements. They should have a low-watt density and larger surface area for efficient heat transfer. Alternatively, simply invite your local plumber to check it.

Smelly or dirty hot water

If the hot water is dirty or smells like rotten eggs, you may have rust in the tank. Possibly, the anode rod may also be decaying. This may call for a replacement of the anode rods.

Steps To Troubleshoot Gas Water Heaters

If your gas water heater is not heating, you can take the following steps:

Relighting the pilot light

Check to see if it is off. Usually, the pilot light ignites the gas. In turn, this heats the heater's water. If the pilot light is turned off, you may confirm the relighting instructions for the model of your water heater. You need to follow the instructions.

If it still refuses to relight, check for a thermocouple fault. The thermocouple controls gas flow in gas water heaters.

Checking for gas leaks

Signs of gas leaks include sulphur or rotten egg smell. Likewise, a hole or crack can cause hissing sounds close to the gas supply or water heater. Your first action if you suspect a gas leak is to turn off the gas. After that, you can call your local gas plumber.

Checking the gas supply

Gas hot water systems need an adequate gas supply. Therefore, you can check if the gas in your gas bottle has not finished. Similarly, see if your gas supply switch is turned off or damaged. Do a check on your gas line. Nothing should prevent gas flow to the pilot light and burner.

Steps Hot Water Specialists May Take

Working with water and electricity can be risky. You should leave certain hot water system repairs and maintenance to licenced plumbers and electricians. They can take the following steps in their troubleshooting process.

Checking your safety switch

They may assess your safety switch if it keeps tripping frequently. A simple press of a button may reset the water heater.

Checking for power continuity

Another reason for continuous tripping of circuit breakers is short circuits in the water heater cabinet. They can use a multimeter to measure the ohms of resistance in the water heater supply wires. This process helps them identify damaged wires or faulty electrical heating parts.

Checking upper heating systems

Typically, upper-element heating systems comprise upper thermostats, hi-temperature limit switches, upper heating elements, and connecting wires. For instance, professional electricians may check the hi-temperature limit switch when the water is too hot.

A broken limit switch may necessitate the replacement of an entire upper thermostat. This is because the limit switch is a part of the thermostat.

Checking lower heating systems

The entire lower-element heating system should have about 13 ohms of resistance. Also, a problem can arise if the transfer switch of the upper thermostat is faulty. Essentially, this switch alternates power between the upper and lower heating elements.

This way, the tank's lower and upper heating elements do not heat up simultaneously. Again, you may have to replace the entire upper thermostat if the transfer switch is faulty. The final step is to check for wiring problems.

The Role Of The Valves

There may be differences in the water heater troubleshooting process for gas or electric water heaters. However, both systems have features in common. Here are some valves you may check.

Isolation valve

Check if the main meter valve is turned on and if no tap is running. But if you confirm that the lack of water affects only one water fixture, you need to check your isolation valve. It is usually coloured red or yellow and located on the water intake side. Turn it on if it is turned off. The isolation valve isolates hot water from your home.

Cold-expansion valve

This valve releases pressure caused by hot water expansion. It also removes cold water.

Temperature and pressure (T&P) relief valve

The temperature and pressure relief or tp valve has the vital function of refiling your hot water system. Furthermore, it releases water as the unit heats up. So do not be surprised if you notice small amounts of water coming from it. However, if there is excess water coming out, it needs a professional check.

Types Of Water Heaters

Different types of hot water systems exist in the market. You could opt for a gas or electric water heater. Furthermore, you may go for the energy-saving option of a solar-powered model. Generally, there are five types of water heaters.

Storage tank water heater

This system is quite popular. It keeps the water warm, and hot water repairs are relatively straightforward. Take note that you should have enough water inside the tank to get enough water flowing from your faucets.

Meanwhile, if the accumulation of mineral deposits causes storage tank issues, you may use water softeners. Another option is to install a complete softening water system.

Tankless water heater

Tankless water heaters make use of a super-heated coil. This coil heats water very quickly and as needed. It also serves large amounts of water. Preferably, your property should have a natural gas supply.

Heat pump hot water systems

This type of hot water system can include either heat pump hot water systems or hybrid water heaters. With them, you can save more on your electricity bills. The heater may be integrated with your air conditioning system. Remember to clean the storage tank twice each year.

Solar hot water systems

If you are looking for an eco-friendly heating solution as well as an energy-efficient option, you can go for this. It has solar panels that transfer heat energy from the sun to a closed-loop system.

Condensing water heater

It uses unused gas fumes to heat the water in the storage tank. This is a convenient option for those who use natural gas as their primary energy source. It uses heated exhaust from the natural gas system.

Contact Hot Water System Specialists

Losing hot water while showering or cleaning up can be disheartening. You can use this guide on electric water heater troubleshooting and repairs. As such, you may no longer need to ask: why is my electric hot water system not heating? Instead, you can implement some DIY steps to get your water heater running well again.

However, you should know your limits. Electric hot water repairs or gas heater repairs are better left to hot water specialists. This includes the installation of gas or solar hot water systems.

They can be versatile in handling emergency plumbing issues such as leaking taps, blocked drains, or burst pipes. Moreover, you can get them to handle switchboard upgrades, house rewires, ceiling fan installs, or gas fitting needs.