Top Fixes for a Malfunctioning Water Heater: Steps to Restore Your Hot Water

When your water heater starts acting up or it’s time for an upgrade, making the right decisions is crucial. This guide covers practical troubleshooting steps, maintenance best practices, and savvy options for replacing your old unit. Keep reading for straightforward advice on ensuring your water heater’s reliability and efficiency, plus tips on balancing performance with operating costs.

Key Takeaways

  • Water heaters come in different types like gas, electric, and solar, with choices like tankless heaters providing energy efficiency and space-saving benefits.
  • Common water heater issues include insufficient hot water supply and temperature fluctuations, which can often be diagnosed and resolved through troubleshooting steps such as checking thermostats, pressure valves, dip tubes, and heating elements.
  • Regular maintenance, like flushing the tank, checking the anode rod and pressure relief valve, and adhering to local installation regulations, are crucial for prolonging the lifespan of a water heater and ensuring safety and efficiency.

Understanding Your Water Heater’s Anatomy

While a water heater may appear simplistic, it is a sophisticated piece of engineering. Its primary function is to heat water, but the process involves a series of intricate parts and mechanisms. The size of your water heater, whether it’s a gas or electric model, and your household’s hot water usage significantly influence its efficiency and performance.

Experiencing extended waits for hot water could indicate an undersized water heater or signal the need for a tankless heater.

Component Breakdown

At the core of a water heater are the heating elements that convert energy into heat. These elements, usually made of copper, heat the water inside the tank. Gas water heaters heat water through a gas flame beneath the tank, while electric water heaters use electric heating elements. To ensure the optimal performance of your water heater, it’s essential to have the right parts in place. 

On the other hand, solar water heaters work by circulating water through solar collectors, harnessing the sun’s heat before storing or using the water.

Energy Source Considerations

The operation and efficiency of your water heater are greatly influenced by its energy source, which can also be considered as its fuel source. Electric water heaters are generally compact and easy to install, while natural gas water heaters, although efficient, require a gas line and proper venting.

Solar water heaters, though requiring more space and longer installation time, are the most energy-efficient, relying on the sun’s energy to heat water.

When to Opt for Tankless Water Heaters

Also known as on-demand water heaters, gas tankless water heaters have several advantages over traditional tank heaters, making them a popular choice among tankless heaters. One of the key benefits of a installing a tankless water heater is its energy efficiency:

Tankless Water Heater Installed

Troubleshooting Common Water Heater Problems

Occasionally, issues may arise with your water heater. But before you rush to call a professional, there are a few common issues you might be able to diagnose and fix yourself. The first step is to identify the problem. From a lack of hot water to fluctuating water temperatures, understanding the cause can help you find a solution.

Insufficient Hot Water Supply

One common issue is an insufficient hot water supply. This could be due to a tripped high-temperature cutoff switch, a malfunctioning upper thermostat, or a water heater that’s too small for your household’s hot water demand. If your gas water heater’s pilot light fails to ignite, it could also lead to a lack of hot water.

Fluctuating Water Temperatures

Another common problem is fluctuating water temperatures. This could be due to:

  • faulty pressure-balancing valves
  • a malfunctioning water heater dip tube
  • a failed thermostat
  • a broken heating element
  • simultaneous use of other appliances

These factors can all contribute to temperature changes.

If your water heater’s temperature fluctuates, consider replacing failed thermostats and broken heating elements, and clear any sediment from the tank if it hasn’t been drained in over a year.

The Lifespan of Water Heaters: Know When to Replace

Recognizing when to replace your water heater can prevent unexpected breakdowns and avoid expensive repairs. The typical lifespan of a tank water heater is approximately 8-12 years for gas models and around 10 years for electric ones. However, tankless water heaters have a longer lifespan, ranging from 12 to 30 years, depending on proper maintenance and water treatment.

Regular maintenance, including flushing the storage tank to eliminate sediment buildup, plays a crucial role in extending the lifespan of your water heater.

Maintenance Tips to Extend Life

Regular maintenance is fundamental to prolong the lifespan of your water heater. This includes:

  • Flushing the tank
  • Inspecting the pressure relief valve
  • Setting an appropriate temperature
  • Checking the condition of the anode rod.

Top Brands to Consider

When it’s time to replace your water heater, you’ll want to consider top brands like:

  • A.O. Smith
  • Bradford White
  • Ecosmart
  • Bosch
  • Takagi
  • Rheem

Rheem and Bradford White water heaters, for instance, offer a range of options suitable for various household sizes and boast features like quiet operation, exceptional efficiency, and smart monitoring systems.

Installation Insights: Getting Your New Water Heater Up and Running

Installing a new water heater is a pivotal task impacting its performance and longevity. The typical cost of hiring a water heater install professional for this task ranges from $500 to $2,500, depending on the size and type of the water heater. It’s also essential to adhere to local and national regulations, which may require obtaining a permit, ensuring appropriate insulation, and maintaining a safe distance from flammable materials.

Estimating Installation Costs

The cost of water heater installation varies based on several factors, including the unit’s type and size, the installation’s complexity, and local labor rates. Gas water heater systems, for example, usually have higher installation costs due to the additional requirements, such as gas line installation and proper venting.


Other factors that can affect the cost include:

  • The location of the installation.
  • The cost of necessary permits.
  • The disposal fees for the old unit.

Permits and Regulations

Acquiring the required permits and complying with regulations are vital aspects of the water heater installation process. These regulations ensure the safe and efficient operation of the water heater and maintain the safety standards of your home. Failure to adhere to these regulations can result in penalties, including fines and the voiding of the water heater’s warranty. It’s important to note that permit requirements may vary by state.

Tankless Water Heater Installed

Maximizing Energy Efficiency with Your Water Heater

Investing in an energy-efficient water heater can lead to lower utility bills and a smaller environmental footprint. When selecting an energy-efficient water heater, key attributes include smart thermostats that initiate heating during off-peak hours and ENERGY STAR certification.

Reducing the temperature setting of your water heater can also lead to substantial energy savings.

Choosing Energy-Efficient Models

When choosing an energy-efficient water heater, look for models with high Uniform Energy Factor (UEF) ratings. The higher the UEF rating, the more energy-efficient the water heater is. ENERGY STAR certified water heaters, for instance, have UEF ratings ranging from 0.65 to 0.95.

These models operate by either transferring heat from one location to another (heat pump water heaters) or harnessing the sun’s heat (solar water heaters) to produce hot water, leading to elevated efficiencies and substantial cost reductions.

Insulation and Temperature Settings

Insulation and temperature settings are two critical factors in maximizing your water heater’s efficiency. Insulation helps prevent heat loss, thereby increasing energy efficiency and performance.

The recommended temperature setting for most households is 120 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent scalding and save on energy costs.

Preventive Care: Avoiding Water Heater Wear and Tear

Regular care and maintenance can inhibit wear and tear of your water heater, thereby extending its lifespan and preserving its efficiency. One common issue is sediment accumulation, which can be mitigated by regularly flushing the water heater.

Another concern is corrosion, particularly of the anode rods inside the water heater. Regular inspection and replacement of these rods can prevent corrosion and extend the lifespan of your water heater.

Dealing with Sediment and Corrosion

Sediment accumulation and corrosion can significantly impact your water heater’s performance. Indicators of sediment accumulation include cloudy or rust-colored water, a metallic taste or scent in the water, and longer than average times to heat the water. Regularly draining and flushing the water heater can prevent sediment buildup.

To prevent corrosion, regularly inspect and replace the anode rods inside the water heater.

Checking for Leaks and Pressure Issues

Regular checks for leaks and pressure issues can prevent damage to your water heater and maintain its performance. Look for signs of a leak, such as rushing or dripping sounds near the unit or puddles of water around it.

Pressure issues in water heaters can arise from excessive pressure buildup, mineral deposits, overheated water due to high-temperature settings, or a malfunctioning pressure relief valve.

Water Heater Enhancements: Accessories and Add-Ons

The functionality and performance of your water heater can be boosted by adding accessories and add-ons. Common accessories include:

  • Water heater sheds
  • Platforms
  • Stands
  • Restraints
  • Drain pans

Additional features like water heater expansion tanks and hot water recirculating pumps can also improve water heater performance.

Must-Have Accessories for Every Homeowner

Investing in essential accessories can optimize your water heater’s performance and extend its lifespan. These include:

  • Platforms
  • Stands
  • Restraints
  • Drain pans
  • Freeze protection drain down kits

Consider using a water heater timer, especially if you have a predictable schedule, as it can reduce unnecessary energy consumption.

Customizing Your Setup

Customizing your water heater setup can enhance its performance and efficiency. Here are some options to consider:

  • Upgrade to a more efficient water heater
  • Install a circulating pump to improve energy efficiency and lifespan
  • Integrate smart devices like Aquanta’s water heater controller and Sinope’s Calypso controller to manage your water heater through your mobile device.

Financial Considerations: Budgeting for Your Water Heater

The decision to invest in a water heater extends beyond the initial cost. It’s important to consider the long-term expenses, including operating costs and potential repair or replacement costs. The typical cost of a new water heater installation ranges from $900 to $5,400, depending on the size and type of the heater, the complexity of the installation, and local labor rates.

Energy-efficient water heaters, while they may be more expensive upfront, can significantly reduce monthly utility bills and offer long-term savings, ultimately helping you save more money.

Upfront vs. Long-Term Savings

Energy-efficient water heaters offer several benefits:

  • Higher upfront cost but long-term savings
  • Reduced energy consumption
  • Extended lifespan
  • Reduced maintenance costs
  • Approximately 60% annual savings compared to electric-only models

Rebates and Incentives

Many utility companies and governments offer rebates and incentives for purchasing energy-efficient water heaters. These rebates can provide cash-back for acquiring water heaters that adhere to specific energy efficiency criteria, helping offset the initial investment cost.

Don’t Let Your Water Heater Leave You Cold

Whether you’re dealing with a malfunctioning hot water heater or considering investing in a new one, understanding the intricacies of your water heater can save you time, money, and a lot of cold showers. From choosing the right size and energy source to regular maintenance and troubleshooting common problems, taking care of your water heater can enhance its performance, prolong its lifespan, and reduce your energy bills. With the right knowledge and care, you can ensure that your water heater remains a reliable source of comfort in your home for many years to come.

Customer Reviews

Call 951-461-5401 or Submit Service Request for Your FREE In-person estimate*.

Ask Us About Our Senior discounts, Veteran discounts, Military discounts, Law Enforcement discounts, First responder discounts, and Teacher discounts. *Some restrictions apply.

Trusted Professionals

Licensed & Insured Plumbers

CA Lic.#1010329, C-36 Plumbing Contractor and C-42 Sanitation Contractor.

✅ For your trust and safety you can verify our CA Contractor license & classifications HERE

plumbing heating cooling contractors association logo
Canyon Lake CA business award

Whether you need a simple faucet installation or complete sewer line replacement, we offer a wide range of residential and commercial plumbing services to meet your needs. We continually strive to exceed expectations by ensuring that each client receives the very best service throughout Riverside County, CA.

CA Contractors License # 1010329

C-36 Plumbing and C-42 Sanitation Contractor

Contact Us Today

Easy Payment Options

We accept cash, checks, Visa, Master Card, Discover, American Express and financing options.