Water heaters are appliances that work for many years, and homeowners rarely think about them unless there is a specific problem. There are many problems that can arise with water heaters and the lack of consistent hot water is definitely the most frustrating. If you have an electric water heater, then keep reading to figure out how to diagnose and repair the issue.
Failed Dip Tube
Water heaters work in a very specific way so they can pull in cold water and release hot water at the same time. It may seem odd that a single container like a hot water tank could hold water at two different temperatures. To understand this, you need to know a little bit about thermodynamics. Basically, hot water rises in the tank while cold water sinks. This is due to the greater density of the colder water.
While the cold water will sink, it can mix with the heated water as it moves to the bottom of the tank. This obviously creates a lukewarm mixture that needs to be continuously heated to supply your home with hot water. To combat this issue, water heaters are fitted with special tubes that connect to the cold water inlet and move water to the bottom of the tank. The tube is called a dip tube.
Dip tubes are typically made from a heat resistant plastic. However, the tube can crack or disintegrate. If this happens, cold water may flow into the tank closer to the middle or the bottom. This is an issue that is common with certain types of water heaters that were manufactured in the 1990s. If your tank is this old, then check the dip tube.
You should first cut the power to the appliance and turn off the cold water supply valve. Use a wrench to release the fitting on the supply line and use a pair of needlenose pliers or the end of a screwdriver to pry or grab the end up the dip tube so it can be pulled up and out of the tank. If the dip tube is broken or cracked in any way, replace it with a new one purchased from your local home store. Connect the cold water supply line, and turn the appliance back on. Wait about 30 to 60 minutes to see if hot water has returned.
Calcium And Mineral Buildup
In some cases, a lack of hot water is a sign that the heating element or elements are starting to fail. These elements do wear out, but this usually happens after many years of use. If your water heater is an older one and you have noticed water becoming much more cool over a period of time, then contact a plumbing professional so the elements can be changed. It may also simply be time for a new appliance.
If your water heater is relatively new and less than 10 years old, then there is a chance that the heating elements are not transferring heat to the water in the tank as consistently as it once did. This often happens when mineral deposits develop on the elements and prevent heat from moving from the elements to the water. You should understand that this issue can cause the elements to overheat and burn out fairly quickly, so it it best to resolve this issue.
If you know that you have hard water, then you will need to dissolve the minerals stuck to the heating elements and then flush the tank. Turn off the water heater, and purchase a package of food-grade citric acid powder. While vinegar can be used as well, you can use a much smaller amount of the citric acid powder with the same results.
Twist off and remove the anode rod from the top of the tank to easily access the inside. Pour about one-cup of the powder into the tank and allow it to sit. Wait an hour or to and then turn on the hot water for 15 minutes to flush the acid and the minerals from the tank. Turn the appliance back on afterwards.
If you can't figure out what's wrong, don't hesitate to reach out to a professional like Jim Dhamer Plumbing and Sewer, Inc.