Why Your Hot Water Heat is Running Out of Hot Water

Why Your Hot Water Heater is Running Out of Hot Water

How to get your reliable hot water back
Read Time: 6 minutes
Feb 7, 2019
Residential Water Heater

Problems with the water heater can sneak up on you since they’re usually out of sight and work quietly. Sometimes the problem requires just a few habitual changes, while other times it may require a call to your local handyman.

Try out the following habit changes first, for easy and free solutions to running out of hot water:

  • Use less water overall
  • Take shorter showers
  • Schedule out showers over a staggered period of time
  • Space out loads of laundry
  • Run your dishwasher only when it’s full
  • Try out eco-mode on your appliances
  • Use cold water when possible (washing clothes, etc.)
  • Install newer, more efficient appliances

If your water heater still isn’t providing the hot water you count on, even after making the key behavior changes outlined here, the cause might be one of the conditions listed below.

Excessive Hard Water Deposits

Buildup on pieces of equipment
A tank-style heater needs to be flushed several times a year to avoid excessive hard water deposits from forming at the bottom of the tank. Hard water contains dissolved mineral solids that can form clumps over time. When they collect at the bottom, the heating process slows because the water deposits act as insulation.

What’s the Fix?

Get rid of the deposits by hooking up a hose to the bottom of the tank and draining off a few gallons several times a year. Be sure you follow the manufacturer’s directions to avoid harming yourself or the tank.

Lack Of Insulation

A water heater can lose heat if it lacks insulation inside it. This lack of insulation leads to a less efficient tank and a consistent lack of hot water during extended use. Newer tanks generally are already insulated, however, if your tank is older there’s a chance the problem lies in lack of insulation.

Insulating your water heater can get rid of the hot water problem, increase efficiency, and save you money.

What’s the Fix?

For a quick fix, wrap the tank with an insulating blanket, available at home improvement centers. Be sure you select the right size and type.

Note: If you have a gas heater, contact a pro to install it for you. They will be able to ensure it allows for proper ventilation to avoid any potentially dangerous problems.

Some electric water heaters can benefit from insulated below the tank to avoid heat loss. Insulation can be done on your own if you have the proper knowledge. But, if you’d rather be safe than sorry, contact a local handyman for help with proper water heater insulation.

Problem With Thermostat

Switching the temperature setting
Many hot water problems all come back to the thermostat (which lucky for you, is a much easier fix than other issues). If the thermostat is set to a certain limit or reset that is too low, then you will inevitably run out of hot water as it’s in use. The thermostat can also cause a complete lack of hot water, water that is too hot, and what that takes too long to reheat for use.

What’s the Fix?

Problems with the thermostat is a common reason for hot water to run out too fast. You’ll need to access the panel on the side of the water heater tank. It may be beneath a layer of insulation. Generally, water heaters should not be adjusted from their factory setting, however, if it is the source of the hot water heater problem then you don’t have much choice.

You’ll need to raise the thermostat temperature to get the desired temperature and amount of hot water. If the rate the thermostat is set at is not the root problem, the thermostat itself may simply be faulty. It could have loose wiring or need a replacement. For this, you’ll need to get in touch with a professional.

Old Water Heater

Your hot water heater will eventually hit the end of its lifespan and need a replacement. While hot water heaters have a relatively long operational period (10 to 12 years) if you try and run them past this point, it can lead to problems with efficiency. A key sign your water heater has hit the end of its life is when it does not replace the hot water fast enough—you’ll begin running out of hot water quickly.

What’s the Fix?

You have two options when it comes to an old water heater. The first is to simply replace it. In some cases, this is the only option. Either the maintenance to get it back in order will be too expensive or the water heater will be irreparable.

Your other option is to have a professional service and repair the water heater. Sometimes a replaced anode rod (designed to prevent corrosion) can help to extend the life of your water heater. This is the preferable solution as it is much less expensive to replace an anode than it is to replace a water heater in its entirety.

Don’t leave it up to guesswork to make a decision between these two options. Have a professional take a look at your water heater to give you expert advice on your best next steps.

Small Tank

Man fixing water heater piping
A large family or extensive use of appliances all at once could lead to a lack of hot water. This is because you run through all the available hot water and your water heater simply can’t keep up with the demand. This generally points to needing a larger water heater. If you can’t change some of your habits you may be able to get around this problem, but chances are you just need more than the smaller water heater can provide.

What’s the Fix?

This fix is simple. Time for new water heater. You can determine your water heater needs based on the number of people in your household. If there only one or two people living in your home, you can probably get by with a 30-gallon tank. Three-person households should have a 40-gallon tank, four-person households a 50-gallon tank, and five-person households an 80-gallon tank.

This fix, while straightforward, is more expensive than a simple repair. Unfortunately, if this is the root cause a new water heater is the only solution. You can expect to spend around $350 on the low end and up to $10,000 on the high end for a new water heater.

Failing Heating Element

Fixing water heater settings
Most electric water heaters have two elements, lower and upper. Over time, they can burn out, which can contribute to a lower water temperature. This is especially prevalent if the lower heating element breaks down as it is responsible for the majority of the heating.

What’s the Fix?

The root of this problem could be linked to sediment buildup, thermostat malfunction, or wiring short. If the cause of your hot water shortage is a failed heating element, you’ll want to call in a professional. Calling in the help of a plumber can get your hot water heater back in order quickly. They can determine what exactly the problem with the failed heating element is and provide a speedy and affordable solution.

Broken Dip Tube

The dip tube in the water heater sends incoming water toward the bottom of the tank for heating. If it breaks, the water won’t reach the bottom of the tank where it would be heated. Instead, it will lower the temperature of the water at the top and flow to your fixtures at a tepid temperature.

What’s the Fix?

Fixing a broken drip tube requires the help of a professional HVAC technician. They will be able to easily identify the source of the problem and fix the tube, leading to a quick solution. This isn’t a quick fix to try on your own. To ensure the problem is fixed quickly and to the full extent, contact a professional technician with experience fixing dip tubes.

The experts at Rinaldi’s Energy Solutions can help you diagnose a water heater problem and also help you avoid them altogether through maintenance. We provide HVAC and plumbing services for Orlando-area homeowners.

Get your hot water back

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