Hot Water Heater Not Getting Hot Enough? (Possible Causes & Fixes)

Matthew Mountain
by Matthew Mountain

Few things are more inconvenient than a water heater that can’t heat water properly. When your water heater is acting in this way, you won’t have access to hot water for showers, nor will there be hot water to clean dishes with. And if you live in a home where demand for hot water is high, a water heater’s inability to produce hot water can be especially inconvenient.

In this article, the problems which can cause a hot water heater to not heat properly will be discussed, as well as solutions to these problems. When your water heater begins to malfunction, you should get in touch with a professional, especially if you lack the know-how, tools, and experience necessary to fix a water heater on your own.

If a water heater is not providing sufficient hot water, this may be due to a broken drip tube, a broken gas valve, a malfunctioning internal heating element, a problem with the thermostat, sediment buildup in the tank, or a leak in the tank. There may also be inadequate hot water because demand for hot water is outstripping supply.

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Where To Begin When A Water Heater Isn’t Producing Hot Water

When you first notice that your water heater isn’t producing sufficiently hot water, you may not know where to begin. First, consider what kind of water heater you’re utilizing on the property. Is it an electric system, a traditional gas tank heater, or a tankless gas-powered water heater?

Next, you should look at your system’s thermostat. Perhaps this is out of whack and adjusting it is all you need to do. Keep in mind that a water heater should not exceed 120°F (49°C) as water at this temperature could be scalding.

When you turn up the thermostat and the water still doesn’t get hot, it’s here when you’ll need to dig deeper to find the source of the problem. The thermostat could be malfunctioning, and in this case, you’ll need a professional to come out and fix it.

The Problems Which Cause Water Heaters To Deliver Lukewarm Water

When the thermostat is not the problem, further investigation will be required. These common problems listed below may explain why your system is only providing lukewarm water. Keep in mind that some of these problems only manifest in traditional tank water heaters.

The Drip Tube Is Broken

In a water heater, a drip tube is utilized to push cold water to the bottom of the tank, as it’s here where the water is heated. The water that’s called when you turn on a tap is coming from the very top of the tank, so if the system isn’t circulating the water correctly, then it’s quite likely your tap is going to pour lukewarm or even cool water.

A drip tube is an important part of a water heater, as this component is required to provide sufficient heat. But sometimes a drip tube can crack, and when this happens you may experience problems with the water’s temperature.

Even if your water is lukewarm, by the time it arrives at the faucet or shower, it’ll probably be cool if not cold. A failing drip tube will typically manifest in a system that’s older than 20 years old.

The Gas Valve Is Broken

When a water heater surpasses 10 years of age, its gas valve can get damaged a lot more easily. And if you haven’t taken care of your heater for years, the gas valve can be even more at risk.

If you smell rotten eggs or garbage and you can tell that it’s emanating from your gas water heater, then there could be a leak in the gas line; either that or your valve is broken. When there is an insufficient amount of gas, the water in the tank cannot get heated to the right temperature.

This is certainly a dangerous problem, and one that shouldn’t be ignored once it’s identified. Certain things may need to be replaced, and the repair may need to happen immediately, especially in the case of a gas line leak.

When this happens, switch off your gas and call the gas company or an expert plumber. By no means should you attempt to fix his problem DIY.

The Internal Heating Element Is Malfunctioning

An electric water heater will usually employ two heating elements. Two are included so that if one breaks, the system will not be completely without hot water. However, if a heating element does break, it’ll need to be repaired or replaced immediately. After all, the system will be working twice as hard to produce hot water.

In this instance, a water heater will be less efficient, and it may even only produce lukewarm water. If your water heater is not heating sufficiently, and one of your elements hasn’t busted, then there may be a problem with the upper heating element. If you have sufficiently hot water but you only have it for a brief amount of time, it’s likely there’s a problem with the lower heating element.

If you regularly check up on these elements, damage will be less likely to occur. And if something does happen, you’ll be on top of things before a problem becomes irreparable. A professional will help you test an element, and they’ll also help you when you need to replace a faulty element.

There’s A Problem With The Thermostat

There could be a problem with the thermostat. Raising it could get the water hotter, but you shouldn’t raise it above 120°F. Some thermostats don’t have degrees, instead they measure water temperature by labels like “warm”, “hot”, and “very hot”. You can use a thermometer to measure the temperature of the water that’s coming out of your tap when you need a more accurate reading.

There’s Sediment Buildup In The Tank

Sediment buildup may also be preventing your water heater from being able to provide sufficiently hot water. It’s rare that a water heater will intake 100% pure water, which means that usually hard water is what’s being passed through a water heater.

Hard water carries dissolved minerals, particles, and other debris. These elements will rest at the bottom of the water heater’s tank if the water has been sitting for a long time. Over time, a buildup of sediment may occur in the bottom of the tank, usually around where the burners are.

When this happens, the burners might not be able to produce heat effectively, and therefore a water heater may only be able to produce lukewarm water. When this problem happens, you will need to drain your tank, remove the sediment, and then, when you start using your system again, you’ll need to use water softener.

The Water Heater Is Leaking

If your water tank is leaking, your system may not be able to provide an adequate amount of hot water. You’ll know your system is leaking if there’s a puddle around it.

When your system has a leak, don’t address this on your own, as you could be dealing with a dangerous situation. Instead, get in touch with a plumber who knows how to handle a leaking water heater. Replacement will probably be what’s recommended, but replacement isn’t always expensive.

You May Just Need A Better Water Heater

Your system could be totally fine. The problem is that it isn’t right for your home. Say, for example, you have more than four family members in your household.

Collectively, a family will put a lot of demand on a hot water heater, and they may not have a heater that can adequately accommodate this much demand. In this case, you should either upgrade your heater or consider getting a tankless water heater.

Consider Getting A Tankless Water Heater

A tankless water heater can be thought of as an on-demand water heater, and it will save you from having to store hot water in a tank. Because hot water is ready on demand, you don’t have to rely on water that’s been sitting for who knows how long. It comes right when you need it.

These are space-saving appliances too, and you can install multiple heaters in your home.

Do You Need Water Heater Repair Services?

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Related Questions

How long should a water heater last?

A gas water heater will typically last between five and 10 years. If you take care of your system well, you can easily get more than 15 good years of use out of it. When a system finally begins to go, it’s likely the heating elements, thermostat, and gas valve will all start to not function properly.

It’s best to get a water heater replacement rather than rely on a failing system.

What does a water heater’s drain valve do?

A drain valve is located near the bottom of a water heater’s tank, and it’s there to remove sediment that might have settled in the system. This valve also makes draining the hot water heater’s tank a lot simpler.

Matthew Mountain
Matthew Mountain

Matt loves everything DIY. He has been learning and practicing different trades since he was a kid, and he's often the first one called when a friend or family member needs a helping hand at home. Matt loves to work with wood and stone, and landscaping is by far his most favorite pastime.

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