The first thing to do when your electric hot water heater isn’t working is to check that the supply of electricity is on. You most likely would have already noticed if the electricity to your entire house is out. So, check that the cord to the hot water heater is plugged in and that the outlet is switched on.
Once you have checked the cord and outlet, you’ll need to check the circuit breaker to check if a fuse has been tripped. To reset the circuit breaker, simply switch it off and on again. If the fuse blows a second time, you will need to contact an electrician.
Before you go any further, you may want to wait to see if the hot water comes back by itself. In a storage electric hot water system, there is only a limited supply of hot water, you may have just used it all up.
Electric hot water heaters are connected to high voltage power mains and could be full of scalding water making them very dangerous if you are not a trained technician. Once you have established that it’s not the electricity supply or the size of the system, call a qualified hot water system specialist to fix your water heater.
1) Check The Gas Supply
Just like with electric systems, the first thing to do when your gas hot water heater stops working is check that the gas supply is working. First, try using another gas appliance. If the other appliance is also not working you will need to contact your utility company.
If the other appliance works, check for a gas leak near the hot water system. If there is a gas leak there should be a smell of sulfur or rotten egg nearby. A gas leak is extremely dangerous. If this is the case, call a professional immediately.
If you have a storage gas hot water system, there is only a limited supply of hot water and you may have just used it all up. Before you go any further, you may want to wait to see if the hot water comes back by itself.
If this the case, check out our article - “How to reduce your water usage”.
In a storage gas hot water heating system there is a pilot light at the bottom of the tank that heats the water. If your hot water system is not working it could be because the pilot light is out. To check if the pilot light is out, simply remove the cover at the bottom of the system and look for the light.
If the pilot light is out, follow the instructions either on the side of the water heater or in the water heater manual on how to relight it. If you can’t find any instructions on how to do this, contact your local hot water heater specialist.
Instantaneous hot water heaters require a minimum flow rate to activate the system. To test if this is the reason your hot water isn’t working, simply turn on a hot water tap on full. If the water does not begin to heat up after this, then the flow rate is not the problem.
Gas hot water systems are connected to mains gas lines and may contain large amounts of hot water. It can be very dangerous to tamper with a gas hot water heater if you are not trained. If none of the above tips solve your hot water problems, call an expert.
If your hot water tap has started to produce luke warm water or only a trickle of hot water, there are a few things you can check yourself before calling a professional in to fix it.
If your hot water is not hot enough, there may be a build up of sediment in the bottom of your hot water heater. Because this is where the heating element in an electric hot water system is, this can affect the system's ability to heat the water in the tank.
To fix this, reduce the temperature of your water heater to 55 degrees celsius and use a softening agent to flush out the sediment build up. If you are not sure how to do this, your local plumber should be able to clear the sediment for you.
If you have flushed the tank and the water is still not hot enough, you may need to ask your electrician or hot water specialist to adjust the thermostat up for you. If your thermostat is already set to the desired temperature, this could be an indication that it is not working correctly and you may need to buy a replacement thermostat.
Water that is not heating up properly could also indicate a broken element. If this is the case you will either need to replace the element or, depending on the age of the system, replace the entire system. Contact your local hot water specialist for specific advice on your hot water system.
Another factor that could be affecting the temperature of your hot water is a rusty tank. Similarly to sediment build up, rust can affect the system’s ability to heat the water in the tank. Unfortunately, if you have a rusty tank there is nothing you can do but replace it and take precautions to stop your new tank from rusting.
If you have an evacuated tube solar hot water system and your hot water outlets aren’t producing hot water, this could be an indication that you have one or more broken tubes in the system.
Evacuated tube solar systems can still work with broken tubes, however, it will affect the efficiency of the system which could result in water that hasn’t been fully heated. Luckily, the tubes in these systems are individually replaceable. Call your local hot water system specialist to organise the replacement of your broken tubes and your hot water will be back up and running in no time.
In a flat panel solar hot water system, a damaged panel will affect the efficiency of the system much like a broken evacuated tube. Unfortunately, if this is the case you may need to replace the entire solar panel to get your system working at full efficiency again. You will need to call your local hot water system expert to arrange the replacement of a broken panel.
There’s nothing worse than turning on your shower on a cold morning only to be greeted with a pathetic trickle of hot water from your showerhead. If this happens to you, you can try checking how many outlets are in use before calling in a professional.
With instantaneous hot water systems, hot water is heated on demand. Because of this, there is a limited amount of hot water that can be used at any one time. This means that when multiple hot water outlets are in use at the same time the hot water is split between the outlets, reducing the flow rate to each.
To check if this is the issue with your system, simply turn off all hot water outlets (including dishwashers and washing machines) and then turn on a single tap. If the flow rate from the tap is normal, this means that you had too many outlets running at once for the size of your system.
If this is a regular occurrence, you may want to consider upgrading your hot water system to a bigger size more suited to your needs. Alternatively, you could buy a single point system to supplement the use of multiple hot water appliances at once.
Before assuming there is a problem with your hot water system, check some of the other hot water taps in your house. You may find that the problem tap is the only hot water tap that is not working. This would indicate a problem with the outlet rather than your hot water system.
If none of your hot water taps are working, check your cold water taps. If these aren’t working either, you will need to check that the mains supply tap to your house is on. If that isn’t the issue, you will need to call your local plumber.
Another reason why there may be no hot water coming from your hot water outlets is if your tank is leaking. Check around your hot water heater tank for any leaking, dampness or damaged pipes.
If you find that the pipes have been damaged, you will need to call in a hot water specialist or plumber to fix them.