Turning Houses Into Homes: A Home and Garden Blog

Sometimes, The Reason Your Water Heater Isn't Heating Is Simple

If you turn on the hot water or jump in the shower, only for cold water to come out, your first thought may be that the hot water heater is broken. Sometimes, this is the case. Hot water heaters don't last forever, after all. But other times, the reason you don't have hot water is so much simpler than that. Here are a few "simple" reasons to look into before you call for water heater repairs or replacement.

Does the water heater have power or gas?

If you have an electric hot water heater, check to make sure the power is turned on to the unit. Also, walk over to your electrical panel and make sure the circuit breaker associated with the hot water heater has not been flipped. Finally, check the outlet that the water heater is plugged into. If it's a GCFI outlet (and according to most building codes these days, it should be), make sure the outlet does not need to be reset. There are all sorts of reasons and ways that electricity to your hot water heater can get cut off, and sometimes all it takes is switching it back on.

If you have a gas hot water heater, make sure the gas valve is turned on. Also, make sure your gas was not turned off due to lack of payment or because the gas company is currently working on the lines. Sometimes, all it takes is a call to the gas company to understand why you have no hot water.

Did the temperature switch get turned down or off?

Older hot water heaters tend to have temperature switches that are pretty exposed. You may have brushed against it while carrying something through the basement. Or, your cat might have rubbed against it and turned the temperature down. If you find that the temperature has been turned down, just turn it back up, and like magic, you'll have hot water again.

Did the pilot light get blown out?

If you have an older gas water heater, check to make sure the pilot light is still on. Sometimes, it can get blown out by a breeze, or if there's a bubble of air in the gas line. You can re-light the pilot with a butane lighter. Look up instructions for your particular hot water heater, or call your local plumber and have them do it for you.

Sometimes when the hot water heater fails, it truly is broken. But other times, something simple and fixable has gone wrong.