Why Is My Water Heater Not Working? 5 Possible Reasons

Why Is My Water Heater Not Working? 5 Possible Reasons

Is your water heater not working? There are a few common issues that could apply to you. Read here to see why your water heater isn’t working properly.

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, about two and a half million water heaters fail every year. Hot water is one of the most essential items we all need for our homes.

Fortunately, depending on exactly why a hot water heater’s not working, they can be relatively easy and cheap to fix. While some types of damage are more expensive to repair than others, a broken heater isn’t necessarily the end of the world.

Read on to learn all about what might be going wrong with your water heater, and what you can do about it.

1. Decreasing Water Pressure

Some problems with a water heater make it stop functioning entirely. Others, like water pressure problems, can affect performance even while your water heat maintains at least partial function.

If your hot water is only warm, if hot water doesn’t stay hot, or if there’s not enough hot water from electric water heaters, then you may have a water pressure problem.

In some cases, the loss of water pressure can start with overly high water pressure. If your water’s pressure or its temperature gets too high, then the heater’s TPR valve can open to bring things back down to normal levels.

However, the valve is a sensitive instrument and it can easily over-correct for high temperatures and pressures. The result can be that you start with excellent water pressure and plenty of hot water, but it suddenly drops off and doesn’t return until later.

One way to solve this problem is by giving your high-pressure water a place to escape to. An expansion tank can hold some of the extra pressure from your water heater so that your TPR valve doesn’t open. This way, you can enjoy the benefits of your excellent water pressure and temperature without losing any consistency.

As with most devices, your water heater can also simply have some loose parts. If you’re losing water pressure, then you might have loose fittings somewhere, a hole in your water tank, or some bolts that need tightening.

In many of these cases, repairs are quick, painless, and inexpensive. If the water tank itself is compromised, however, the repair job may be significantly more costly.

2. Thermostat Problems

Thermostats are electrical instruments. Due to the advances of modern technology, electrical devices like the thermostat are less likely to fail than a gasket or a piece of pipe. Nonetheless, it’s always possible that the thermostat will malfunction, and there are some simple ways to tell that this might be the cause of your problems.

Many water heaters have two heating elements. One or both can fail. If your hot water is cold, then there could be any number of causes, including both heating elements that have failed, or a thermostat attached to both heating elements malfunctioning.

But in many cases, when the thermostat malfunctions, it will only turn off one of your heating elements. This leads to shortages of hot water, and long waits until there is more hot water. These clues can help you figure out that your thermostat is causing the problem.

3. The Pilot Light Is Out

“Why is my water not getting hot?” If your water isn’t heating up at all, then the problem may be an extinguished pilot light. Gas water heaters rely on a pilot light to ignite the gas in the system to heat the water.

Even when the heater is “off,” the pilot lay stays on, a small flame ready to be used whenever the heater needs to heat new water. Pilot lights are impressively reliable tools that can stay safely lit for many years without ever going out.

Occasionally, though, the gas company might make a mistake with providing fuel, or a freak gust of wind could blow out the pilot light.

Alternatively, like everything else, your gas lines can corrode and break down over time. Without a steady source of fuel, the pilot light may snuff out.

While replacing problematic gas lines can be an expensive job, in many cases, re-igniting a pilot light is a simple and cheap fix. You may even be able to do it yourself.

4. The Temperature and Pressure Relief Valve

You already know a little about the TPR valve. The full name is the temperature and pressure relief valve, and it works to let your water heater “blow off some steam” when it has excessively high pressure or heat.

The TPR is extremely important, as without it, pressure may build up in your water heater tank until it explodes.

A TPR valve can leak so that you constantly suffer low water pressure and tepid showers. Make sure to get it fixed right away by a skilled professional if that happens. Even when everything is working fine, you should give the TPR valve a quick inspection each year to make sure nothing looks amiss.

5. A Dirty Electronic Ignition

Some water heaters use electronic ignitions instead of a pilot light. While a pilot light is an impressively resilient tool, electronic systems can often provide near-perfect reliability.

Even electronic ignition systems can fail, though. Your electronic ignition water heater relies on a sensor to know when it needs to turn on and ignite some gas. While the ignition itself may work perfectly, a faulty sensor can falsely tell the ignition not to do its job.

Fortunately, getting the sensor cleaned is low cost and fast and you can go right back to enjoying your hot water again. 

Don’t Let It Get You Down When Your Water Heater’s Not Working

We hope you learned something helpful about what might be going on when your water heater’s not working and what you can do about it. 

To learn more about how to take care of your plumbing needs and find quality help, check out our other pages.