There's never a good time to run out of hot water, but water heater issues can be incredibly distressing during the colder weather of fall and winter. When your water's too cold, your water heater is the most likely culprit. Conventional storage water heaters are relatively straightforward devices, so there are usually a limited number of potential causes.
If you find that your water is suddenly much colder than you expect, don't panic. Instead, follow these steps to try to determine the underlying issue with your water heater.
1. Check for Leaks
Storage water heaters work by heating a tank full of water, which is then available for use at any of your home's fixtures. If the tank is leaking, the constant loss of hot water means that your heater may be unable to keep the reserve water in the tank hot enough. A slow leak may result in water that's still warm but not nearly as hot as it should be.
Like any other appliance that relies on water, your heater can leak at its inlet or outlet pipes and valves. The drain valve that you use to flush sediment from the tank is another potential suspect. If you spot water with no apparent source, then the tank itself may be damaged or cracked.
2. Adjust Temperature
Your water heater should have an easily accessible thermostat somewhere near the bottom of the tank. The setpoint for your water heater should typically be between 120 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. If you notice that the thermostat is set significantly below this level, you can try increasing the thermostat setpoint.
Note that it can be dangerous to increase your hot water temperature too much. High temperatures increase pressure in the tank and may also cause physical injury. If your setpoint is above 100 degrees and none of your home's fixtures have hot water, then the problem most likely lies elsewhere.
3. Check the Flame
Gas water heaters rely on consistent, clean combustion to heat water efficiently. Your water heater should have an access panel or window that allows you to view the size and color of your flame. If you can't see a flame or if the color appears orange or yellow, then there may be a problem with your igniter, burner, or fuel supply.
If you aren't an expert, avoid attempting to repair or diagnose burner and igniter issues yourself. An experienced plumber can help you to uncover the root cause of your water heater's failure and get your home's water feeling warm and toasty again. Reach out to a local company like ATWH for water heater repair services.