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Typical problems in small water heater

Water heater is one of appliances of daily use in every household especially in the colder regions of the world. In the tropics their use may not be so widespread round-the-year, but life is unthinkable without them, if you stay a bit away from the equator.  A water heater problem could be of various types – water leaking out of the tank, the quantity of hot water being produced by the unit is not sufficient, water is either too hot or not sufficiently hot, bizarre noises are coming out of the unit,  water is smelly and discoloured. However these problems are not of very complex kind. You can troubleshoot them on you own. Let’s take at the usual problems of a water heater.

Not producing hot water at all

If you have an electric heater that is not producing water at all, then the fault lies in the circuit breaker. It may have tripped. You should check the breaker box. If that is not the case then the heating elements have failed and therefore need to be replaced. This can happen if there is an issue with the reset switch on the thermostat. It may have tripped on account of the water being too hot. The switch may not be functioning therefore needs replacement.

In case of a gas heater the fault may lie with thermocouple which is not sensing the pilot light, when it is on. Therefore it is not igniting the gas. If you have an advanced gas heater, you can also check the breaker box for a tripped circuit.  

The water is too hot

In this case you should check you thermostat that could be cranked up too high. Lower it, wait, and see if the water temperature modifies or not. If it does not then thermostat may not be working and requires to be replaced. There could be wiring issues as well which have led to the problem.

Quantity of water is low

The most usual reason for this kind of problem is that you bought an undersized heater.  In case you have bought a big new soaking tub or high-flow shower head to meet your increasing demand of water, you have to buy a heater as well to be compatible with it. When you look for new water heater also look into the tankless option. In case of the latter you will never run out of hot water. If the heater has suddenly stopped producing enough hot water then check the setting of the thermostat as well. You need to raise the thermostat a bit higher as the water cools down as it travels all the way to your house through the cold pipes.

Also check if water heater is not leaking. Flush the water tank to get rid of the mineral deposits inside it. This can reduce its efficiency.

Hot Water is discoloured or smelly

If the hot water is giving out bad odor, then first know whether there is an issue with the heater and the tank or the source water is dirty and contaminated. If both hot and cold water smells similar, then the problem lies with the source water. In case only the hot water smells bad, then you need to flush you water heater as well as clean the tank. This should be done periodically. Iron, copper, and other minerals can cause discoloration in water. You can buy a whole house water filter or a water softener, which will solve the problem.  If the heater is giving out rust colored water then it is a sign of corrosion of the anode. Scale build-up in the tank and the heating unit can also make the water discoloured and smelly.

It takes a long time for the heater to reheat the water

The cause of this problem lies in the worn out heating elements or the thermostat. Those parts may need to be replaced. There could be sediments building on the heating elements.


The water pressure is low

This could be on account of 1/2-inch diameter galvanized piping that takes water in and out of the water heater. You can replace it with a modern 3/4-inch piping which allows more water to flow through. Besides this, build-up of sediment, calcium-deposits, and rust inside the pipes or sink aerators can invite this problem. A leaking water heater can also cause this problem.

Water heater is making strange noises

Sometimes you hear strange popping, hissing, banging, knocking, or other strange noises from your water heater. The reasons could be

·        Scale build-up on your heating elements or at the bottom of the tank

·        Leakages in the unit

·        High pressure inside the tanks or pipes

Noise from a heater is not a grave issue. But if it is there, always inspect for peace of mind.


Water Leaking from the water heater

This could happen due to normal condensation, a leaking gasket in the unit. Sometimes pressure build up in the tank makes the T&P valve to open and release a bit of water to bring down the excess pressure. If the tank is leaking it is better to replace the heater.