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Why Do I Have No Hot Water?

If your water heater is giving you the cold shoulder, there's something wrong with your system. No hot water? The thermocouple, water heat exhaust, and flood stop are just some of the possible suspects.

Possible Culprits hehind No Hot Water

No hot water in the shower is a rough start to the day. Here's a quick list of things to look for to help you get to the bottom of your frosty situation.

Potential Issues

  • house is making noise
  • no hot water

Sediment, minerals, and scale settle out of the water in your water heater and gather at the bottom of the tank. If it's not cleaned out, the buildup will prevent the burner from heating your water efficiently. All of this creates stress on your system, which isn't any better for your water heater than it is for you. Over time, the stress will shorten the lifespan of your water heater. All it takes to keep your water heater happy and healthy is a good spa day. Flushing your tank annually will clear the buildup before it becomes a problem, which will extend the life of your water heater.

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  • no hot water

Heat pump water heaters take heat from the air and transfer it into your water. If the unit is in a cool space like a garage or a cold basement, there's less heat to pull in, meaning it will have to work harder to get water to the set temperature. The more hot water you use, the more trouble the water heater will have keeping up.

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  • no hot water

Most water heaters create their own heat through combustion or electricity, but it takes a lot of power and fuel to generate heat where there was none before. Heat pump water heaters get clever and use what's already available — the heat in the air around the tank. They pull heat out of the surrounding air and transfer it into your water. This makes them great energy savers, but there's a trade off with speed. Generally, they can't heat water as quickly as your average standard electric water heater. They often have backup electric heating elements that can help give your water heater a boost in times of high demand, but using it eliminates the energy savings.

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  • no hot water

Gas water heaters use a flame to make sure that your morning showers stay toasty. All the flame needs is a consistent supply of gas and clean air. If dirty air gets into the compartment, that dirt will burn and leave buildup on the burner. A good cleaning will nurse your flame back to health so it can get to work.

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  • no hot water

As you use hot water in your home, fresh, cold water is pulled from the main line into the water heater's tank. Once inside the tank, it needs to be brought up to the set temperature. Every water heater has a limit to the amount of water it can heat in a short amount of time. If you're using hot water for showering, washing dishes, and running the washing machine all at the same time, your system may not be able to keep up.

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  • no hot water

The thermostat on your water heater is responsible for keeping your water at the right temperature. It keeps the heating element in line by telling it if it should continue heating or let the water cool down. If the thermostat setting is too low, your water will stop heating before it ever gets hot — leaving you out in the cold. Ideally, you want your thermostat set at 120°F for the best balance between hot and safe temperatures.

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  • no hot water
  • water is too hot

Water heaters have two thermostats, one for each heating element. These thermostats are in charge of measuring the temperature of the water and telling the element if it should keep heating the water or not. If the thermostat is damaged, your water heater won't know when to heat the water in the tank, which can cause the water to be too hot or too cold. In some cases, it may also blow a circuit breaker. Thermostats can break down over time or in a single event like a power surge. Once a good thermostat goes bad, there's no way to reverse it. The thermostat will need to be replaced.

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  • no hot water

Most gas tank-type water heaters in use today have a standing pilot light that lights the main burner when you need more hot water. The pilot light should stay lit from the day your plumber installs the water heater until the day it’s replaced. But, things happen. If it goes out, you'll need to relight it before you can get back to steamy showers and warm wash cycles.

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  • no hot water

Gas water heaters need a constant flow of air in and out of the unit in order to create proper combustion. When the airflow is blocked in the inlet, your water heater won't be able to pull in enough air. Your burner may still light, but the flame won't be a healthy, hot blue. Instead, it will be a cooler yellow, which will take much longer to heat your water and may not be able to keep up with your needs. If you have a tankless water heater, it will shut down completely and give you an error code.

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  • no hot water

Gas water heaters use a flame to make sure that your morning showers stay toasty. The flame needs a consistent supply of gas and clean air. However, if the air filters get dirty, it won't be able to pull as much air into the burner compartment to feed the flame. A hungry flame is a cold flame, which won't be able to heat your water the way you want. A good cleaning will nurse your flame back to health so it can get to work.

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  • no hot water

When you have a large family, you have a lot going on at the same time. Anybody can have trouble keeping up, including your water heater. If someone is using hot water for dishes or laundry while someone else is in the shower, your water heater may not be able to produce enough hot water in the time it takes to use it.

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  • no hot water
  • air smells strange

A thermocouple is a small sensor with a big responsibility. When your gas water heater's pilot light turns on, it triggers the thermocouple to release a small electric current, which then allows the gas valve to open. This ensures that your pilot light will stay lit and prevents gas from leaking if it goes out. If the thermocouple breaks, the gas valve won't know whether to stay open or closed, which can prevent your water heater from working or even cause the unburned gas to leak into your home.

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  • no hot water

The hot water line comes out of the tankless water heater and goes to the tempering valve. This small but mighty valve is responsible for connecting hot and cold water lines and blending the water together until the water reaches the temperature setting on the dial. It reads the temperature using a small element or thermostat inside the valve. Issues such as calcium build up, lime scale, rust, or just regular wear can prevent it from detecting the temperature properly. If it can't read the temperature, it's mixing hot with cold based on information it doesn't have, and will likely leave your water too hot or too cold.

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  • no hot water
  • low water pressure in the shower

In the process of heating your water, the high temperatures inside your water heater can cause the lime scale that's naturally in tap water to separate and cling to the inside of your heat exchanger. As the coating gets thicker, it starts to act as a insulator, blocking the heating coil's ability to transfer heat. If not fixed, it could completely block your water heater from producing heat — leaving you out in the cold.

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  • no hot water

When a gas tankless water heater turns on, it requires gas from the line to heat the water. Some tankless water heaters use the same ½ inch gas line as a regular water heater, but others need a ¾ inch gas line. If you've changed from a standard to a tankless water heater, you may need to update the line. Determining the right gas line size requires a licensed plumber or gas fitter to do a calculation. They will take the total demand load, gas pressure, longest length of the gas line, as well as available make up air for proper combustion and calculate what your system needs. Due to the complexity of the calculation, we recommend you leave this one to the pros. However, you can help by taking notes of the error codes that come up on your water heater's screen and showing them to the technician.

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  • no hot water
  • no heat coming from vents

The gas valve is a small switch with a large effect on your home. This little valve stands between your home and the gas supply lines, allowing you to stop gas from entering your home when something breaks or you need to replace a gas-powered appliance. If it gets turned or bumped and shuts off the gas accidentally, it can cause quite a headache before you figure out what's wrong. Once you do, relief is as easy as turning it back on.

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  • no hot water

Your water heater has a series of parts that all need to work together to make sure that you get hot water when you need it. Inside your water heater tank, there's a temperature probe behind the gas valve. This probe senses the temperature of the water in the tank and tells the gas valve if it should open or close. The gas valve then turns on or shuts off the gas to the main burner to maintain the temperature set on your water heater's thermostat. When all these parts are working, voilà — hot water at the turn of a tap! But, if your gas valve goes bad, you won't be able to control the temperature of your hot water. You may even have no hot water at all.

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  • no hot water

Little critters can cause big problems when they make a home in the gas tube on your hot water heater or other gas appliance. If the gas line is restricted by a spider web or nest, gas can't make its way to the burner, and you may find yourself without hot water. If this is the problem, cleaning the gas tube may be an option depending on the severity of the clog. Replacing the tube might be your best bet.

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  • no hot water

Inside your water heater's combustion chamber, the burning fuel produces gases. The gases are then moved out the exhaust pipe so they don't enter your home. In the event that the exhaust or vent pipe gets blocked, the unit will shut down to prevent any further damage to the unit.

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  • no hot water

There are usually two covers on hot water heaters, one for each thermostat. Only the thermostat under the top cover will have a reset button. This large red button is a safety device that trips when your water heater overheats. Typically, this happens because the thermostat failed to shut the heating element off after the water reached the setpoint. A simple reset is all you should need to get your water heater running again, but if the reset button keeps tripping, that's a sign that something is wrong with your thermostats.

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  • no hot water

The dip tube is the part of the hot water tank that ensures you get a steamy shower instead of an ice bath. It directs incoming cold water to the bottom of the tank, near the burner, so that it can be heated. If the dip tube fails, the cold water will stay near the top of the tank instead of being pushed to the bottom. This can cause it to short circuit and cold water will go out through the hot water side.

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