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Table of Contents

Identifying Common Water Heater Problems

Troubleshooting Common Electric Water Heater Problems

Troubleshooting Hybrid Heat Pump Water Heater Failures

Troubleshooting Gas Water Heater Problems

Effective Maintenance and Prevention Tips

Schedule your water heater repair now!

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Understanding the Top 10 Reasons Why Your Water Heater Isn't Heating

7 min readUpdated May. 21, 2024Lyle WeischwillWater Heater
Understanding the Top 10 Reasons Why Your Water Heater Isn't Heating image

Are you frustrated with your water heater not producing hot water? This issue is quite common and there can be several reasons behind it. In this article, we aim to highlight the top 10 reasons your water heater won't heat as expected. By knowing these potential issues, you'll be better equipped to troubleshoot or seek professional assistance when needed.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • Your water heater can stop heating for many various reasons including a tripped circuit breaker, bad heating element or a faulty thermostat.
  • Learn about the top 10 most frequent causes of heating failures in electric, gas and hybrid heat pump water heaters.
  • Follow the basic troubleshooting steps or have a Sears Home Services technician diagnose and repair your water heater to fix heating problems.

Identifying Common Water Heater Problems

A variety of issues can prevent your water heater from working. We will delve into 10 of the most common water heater problems that can contribute to your water heater not heating correctly.

  1. Tripped house circuit breaker: Check the house circuit breakers for your water heater when it won’t heat. For an electric water heater, you’ll find 2 circuit breakers typically connected together with a metal clip. A gas water heater will only have a single circuit breaker. Shut off the breaker and then turn it back on to attempt to reset it. This may restore power to the water heater so it works again. If the breaker trips again within seconds after resetting it, you’ll likely need to have a service technician examine and repair the water heater.
  2. Faulty heating element: This is one of the most frequent reasons your electric water heater won't heat. The heating element, which is responsible for heating the water inside the tank, can wear out or get damaged over time, resulting in inadequate heating. If you suspect that your heating element might be faulty, you may be able to fix the problem using the troubleshooting described in the next section below. If you’re not able to fix the problem yourself, schedule service and we’ll send a Sears Home Services technician to fix your water heater.
  3. Tripped high-temperature limit switch: The upper heating element in an electric water heater has a high-temperature limit switch that trips if water in the tank overheats. Resetting the high-temperature limit switch may restore hot water but you may not be out the woods yet. You'll need to monitor your water temperature for overheating. The high-temperature limit switch tripped for a reason, likely because you have a shorted heating element or defective thermostat causing the water to overheat. You'll need to resolve overheating problems to prevent scalding. Water temperature should never exceed 120 degrees. If the water overheats after resetting the high-temperature limit switch, view our Electric Water Heating Troubleshooting Video – Water Too Hot this video for troubleshooting tips to resolve that problem. If you’re unable to fix an overheating problem yourself, you’ll need to schedule service and have a Sears Home Services technician fix the water heater.
  4. Lack of gas supply: For a gas water heater, check the gas supply cut-off valve to make sure it is fully open. If none of your other gas appliances have gas, then you’ll likely need to check with your gas supplier to restore the gas supply to your home.
  5. Faulty thermostat: The thermostat regulates the water temperature in your heater. When it fails, the elements won’t turn on or the burner won’t light to heat the water.
  6. Wiring problems: Loose or disconnected wires can prevent heating components from getting power.
  7. Lack of refrigerant: Electric hybrid heat pump water heaters use a compressor with refrigerant to heat the water. Lack of refrigerant in the sealed system can prevent this type of water heater from heating.
  8. Electronic control board problems: Some water heaters use a control board to govern water heater operations. A failed control board can prevent the water heater from heating water.
  9. Error codes: Electric hybrid heat pump water heater use electronic control boards that display error codes when components inside the water heater fail or when the control detects a problem. Check the control display for an error code that could be preventing the water heater from working.
  10. Plumbing problems: Clogged or broken pipes can prevent the water heater from working. When water isn’t flowing through the water heater properly, you’ll typically need to have a plumber fix the problem.

Troubleshooting Common Electric Water Heater Problems

This DIY troubleshooting video for heating problems in an electric water heater will help you fix the most common causes of failures:

If you’re not completely confident that you can safely complete troubleshooting steps described in the video or you’re unable to fix the heating problem yourself, schedule service and we’ll send a Sears Home Services Technician to fix your water heater.

Troubleshooting Hybrid Heat Pump Water Heater Failures

Hybrid heat pump water heaters are fairly complicated appliances that typically require a professional service call when heating failures occur. Before scheduling a technician, follow the basic troubleshooting steps described in the owner’s manual for your model.

Heat pump water heaters often display an error code when the control detects a component problem. Sometimes, you can take basic troubleshooting steps that will help clear the code and restore heating. When you see an error code on the display of your hybrid heat pump water heater, look up the code and follow the basic troubleshooting advice provided in our Water Heater Error Code Charts. If you’re unable to resolve the problem yourself, schedule service and we’ll send a Sears Home Services technician to your home to fix the problem.

Troubleshooting Gas Water Heater Problems

Gas water heaters are typically complicated and dangerous to repair on your own. Beyond the basic troubleshooting steps described in the owner’s manual, we don’t recommend that you try to fix heating problems yourself. Check the basics such as the gas supply and power supply when your gas water heater won’t heat. When you exhaust all basic troubleshooting steps and the water heater won’t heat, schedule service and we’ll send a technician to resolve the heating problem.

Effective Maintenance and Prevention Tips

To keep your water heater performing smoothly and to prevent heating issues, regular maintenance is crucial. Here are some tips:

  • Check the temperature settings: Ensure the temperature is set according to your needs, typically between 110 and 130 degrees Fahrenheit. The 120 degree setting is ideal.
  • Flush the tank annually: This helps to prevent sediment buildup that can affect your water heater's performance. Follow the steps described in this video to flush an electric water heater tank: How to Drain the Water Heater Tank Video.
  • Inspect the pressure relief valve regularly: This valve is vital for preventing excessive pressure buildup. Regular checks can ensure it's working correctly.
  • Look for leaks: Monitor your water heater for signs of leakage, such as pooling water or dampness around the unit. Address leaks promptly to prevent further damage.

Prevention is vital in avoiding future water heater problems. Consider these preventive measures:

  • Install a water softener: This can help reduce mineral buildup in your water heater caused by hard water.
  • Insulate the pipes: Proper insulation can conserve heat and prevent heat loss, reducing the strain on your water heater.
  • Replace the anode rod regularly: The anode rod prevents corrosion inside the tank. Annual checks and replacement when necessary can extend the tank's lifespan. Our How to Replace a Water Heater Anode Rod Video shows you how.
  • Manage your usage: Excessive hot water usage can overwork your water heater. Consider spreading out activities requiring hot water throughout the day.

By following these maintenance and preventive tips, you can prevent many of the top 10 reasons your water heater won't heat and increase your water heater's lifespan and efficiency.

Schedule your water heater repair now!

Our technicians possess the knowledge and training to fix your water heater, no matter where you bought it.

Call (213) 596-2538 or schedule online now.

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