Now that the warm months are here, it's easy to forget that your water heater is still hard at work. While your furnace sits idle and waits for the return of winter, your water heater bravely soldiers on, providing warm water for showers, baths, and sinks. Unfortunately, water heaters are not immune to their fair share of maintenance issues, and cold showers are no more fun in the summer than they are in the winter. If your water seems to be a little colder than usual, it may be due to one of these three common issues.
Your Thermostat May Be Set Wrong
If you haven't looked at your water heater (or any water heater!) recently, then you may not realize that it has a built-in thermostat. This performs exactly the function that you would expect: it sets the temperature that the water in the tank is warmed to. If your thermostat is set too low, then your water may seem lukewarm or even cold. Anytime your hot water seems just slightly too cold, it's worth checking the thermostat and adjusting it if necessary.
It's normal to adjust the temperature between summer and winter as the ambient temperature affects the temperature of water in the pipes, but a sudden change in water temperature likely indicates a deeper issue. If adjusting the thermostat doesn't solve the problem, then it's time to begin some deeper troubleshooting.
There's Too Much Sediment
Sediment naturally builds up at the bottom of any hot water heater tank. For gas tanks, this can seriously impact the ability of the heater to successfully warm your water. Since the burner is usually located near the bottom of the tank, the layer of built-up sediment effectively acts as an insulator. The more sediment that builds up, the less efficient the water heater will become. On an electric water heater, this sediment build-up can even cause the heating element on the bottom of the tank to fail prematurely.
If you suspect sediment is a problem, then draining your tank is the best solution. As a general rule, this should be done on a regular schedule as part of routine maintenance to avoid creating a situation that can damage your heater or tank.
One or Both Heating Elements Have Failed
If you have an electric water heater, then there are heating elements inside the tank that actually warm the water. In most tanks, there's an upper element and a lower element. If your water is completely cold, then it is possible that both elements have failed. In many cases, however, only a single element will fail. This can lead to water that is lukewarm or that runs warm for a very short period of time before becoming cold.
If you suspect that a single heating element has failed, try adjusting the thermostat. If the water temperature responds a bit, but still remains too cold (or requires a drastic adjustment), then it's likely that you have a failed heating element.
For more information and help, contact local water heater repair services.