Reasons Why Your Water Heater May Stop Working

Water heater no longer working - Mr. Plumber by Metzler & Hallam

Has your water heater stopped working recently? For homeowners in Indianapolis, Indiana, water heaters are essential for comfortable living – your water heater makes it possible to bathe, wash dishes and laundry, and complete other necessary household chores. When the water heater stops working, it causes stress on everyone in the home. However, most causes are simpler than you think. 

Many homeowners are unsure of what causes a water heater to cease its function, but Mr. Plumber knows all the common problems associated with this issue. In this post, we cover the difference between electric and gas water heaters and what goes wrong with each. After reading, homeowners rest easy knowing the cause of their water heater problems!

Electric vs. Gas Tank Water Heaters

There are two types of fuel used by water heaters—electric and gas. Before discussing why your water heater stopped working, homeowners must know which kind of water heater they possess. The differences between the two are important to solving the problem, so check your water heater to see which type you have in your home.

In tank model units (also known as conventional water heaters), both water heaters require cold water to enter at the top of the tank. From there, the water goes down a dip tube where it empties into the bottom of the tank. The water is heated at the bottom by the heating mechanism. Finally, hot water exits at the top of the tank—because heat always rises—and flows to the needed area of the home when hot water taps are open. Both are controlled by a thermostat. 

  • Electric. An electric water heater uses electricity to power the heating mechanism. The power source is located outside of the unit in a control box. Because it uses electricity rather than gas, it’s more energy efficient and better for the environment. 
  • Gas. Gas water heaters use a gas burner to heat the water. There are safety measures included in the gas water heater to prevent gas leaks. Because it uses gas—a nonrenewable resource—it is less energy efficient. Older homes typically have gas water heaters.

 

Additionally, gas heaters often cost less month-to-month to operate, but are more expensive to purchase than electric. Electric water heaters are cheaper to purchase and are safer options. Because gas heaters use natural gas, they have the potential to experience gas leaks, or—in extreme cases—explosions if they aren’t properly maintained. Schedule maintenance for your water heater once a year to ensure everything works at its best.

 

The common problems listed below give insight as to why the water heater stopped working for both gas and electric heaters. 

 

How to Know Your Water Heater Stopped Working

If your water heater stopped working, it likely produced some of these symptoms. Before the water heater loses functionality, it often lets homeowners know of problems through these common signs. Check your electric or gas water heater for these problems regularly to maintain the health of the water heater.

 

  • Loud noises. Water heaters may make noises when something is amiss in the system, which indicate something is not operating properly in the unit. If you hear the water heater make strange noises like hissing, popping, or banging, investigate the system for performance issues.
  • No hot water. If it no longer produces hot water, the water heater stopped working. This problem must be handled differently depending on the type of water heater you own – gas or electric. However, like with loud noises, the issues are often minor and easy to fix. Some problems associated with no hot water do require replacements or repairs, so contact a plumber to properly diagnose the issue. Occasionally, no hot water means the water heater stopped working for good, and a replacement water heater is required.
  • Too hot. On the other hand, some water heaters generate too much heat for the water. Problems like this don’t necessarily mean the water heater stopped working, but it does require some research to fix. In most cases, the problem stems from the thermostat and not the water heater itself.
  • Not enough hot water. Sometimes, a water heater runs out of hot water for homeowners to use. When this happens, the water heater needs some maintenance—mostly regarding the thermostat. When winter rolls around, the pipes become colder and cool the water down before it reaches you. This also causes the hot water to deplete faster than normal. In some cases, this symptom may mean you need to upgrade to a larger water heater to meet your household’s hot water demands.
  • Not enough pressure. Low hot water pressure from the water heater sometimes means there is an issue with the size of the pipes in your home. Older homes often have smaller diameter pipes, which means the water from the heater only has a tiny amount of space to travel through. This impacts the pressure of the water but relates more to the pipes than the water heater itself. 
  • Puddles of water. Puddles of water around the water heater indicates a leak of some kind. If you notice water around the water heater, it’s best to call a plumber to find the source of the leak. If the water heater stopped working and there’s a lot of water, you need quick repair service to avoid extensive water damage. 
  • Cloudy or smelly water. Lastly, cloudy or smelly water points to something amiss with the water heater. Homes with well water are more prone to this issue, but it happens to everyone. Cloudy or smelly water in the home makes homeowners fearful of their water, but with the help of a plumber the issue gets resolved quickly.

 

Common Reasons Why the Water Heater Stopped Working

Your water heater stopped working likely because of the reasons listed below. These are cited as the most common reasons for water heater failure by plumbers. Some of these issues are easy to handle on your own while some require the help of a trained plumber to fix the problem. 

  • Sediment collection. Firstly, if you experience strange noises from the water heater, sediment collection is likely the cause. When sediment builds up in the water heater, water experiences more difficulty flowing through the heating elements than when the heater is clean. Sediment also contributes to odors in the water. Make sure the tank and the heating mechanism is cleaned regularly to avoid these issues.
  • Leaks. If your water heater stopped working because of leaks, call a plumber for help. Leaks occur in many places on a water heater, which means the cause eludes the average homeowner. Their causes range from condensation to rust and corrosion, so keep an eye on the system to keep it running smoothly. 
  • Bacteria. Bacteria causes hot water to smell. When bacteria collect in the water heater, it produces a foul odor. This happens more often in homes with well water as their water source, but it also occurs in homes with municipal water sources. Over time, bacteria grow in the warm, dark tank and contaminate the water, which causes the smell. Keep the water heater clean to avoid this issue.
  • Circuit tripped or no pilot light. If the water heater stopped working completely, check the circuit breaker for electric heaters or the pilot light for gas heaters. Usually, the entire system stops when it loses power, which causes stress on the homeowner. Luckily, the fixes are easy to complete. For an electrical heater, restart the breaker. For a gas heater, relight the pilot. If the pilot light refuses to stay lit, it’s time to call in a professional. 
  • Thermostat issues. The thermostat causes a range of problems for the water heater if it isn’t properly calibrated. Thermostats control the temperature of the water in the heater, so if the thermostat is set too high or too low, it impacts the temperature of the water. Make sure the thermostat is set to the correct temperature to fix issues with water temperature. 
  • Dip tube problems. Dip tubes move water in the heater to the bottom of the tank to be heated, so problems with this component impact the functionality of the heating mechanism. If the dip tube stops working, the water is not directed to the bottom of the tank, which means it isn’t heated. To fix dip tube problems, it’s safest to contact a licensed plumber for assistance. 
  • Tank too small. Lastly, if you think your water heater stopped working, but the other issues on the list aren’t the cause, then the tank likely doesn’t fit the size of your home. When a tank is too small for the home, it performs below its expectations. An undersized tank doesn’t create enough hot water, uses hot water too quickly, and must run more to meet a home’s hot water demands. They encounter more problems overall because excess stress is placed on the unit from higher use. Call a plumber to assess the size of your water heater tank and find a solution to limit future water heater issues. 

Mr. Plumber Knows Why Your Water Heater Stopped Working

If your water heater stopped working, you now know the most common explanations for the malfunction. When a water heater stops working, homeowners often think the worst, but in most cases the problem requires a simple fix or maintenance. 

To make sure your water heater always works at its best, schedule an annual maintenance visit with Mr. Plumber. Our licensed plumbers know the correct ways to fix a faulty water heater. We also answer any questions you have about how to take care of your water heater when we aren’t around. Homeowners in Indianapolis, Indiana rest easy knowing Mr. Plumber has their back.

For more information on our services, give us a call today! We offer free service estimates and are happy to schedule your visit right away.

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