Water Heater Troubleshooting- Not Producing Hot Water

man working on a water heater
  • 1-6 hours
  • Intermediate
  • 0-100
What You'll Need
Long matches (optional)
What You'll Need
Long matches (optional)

When you have a problem with your water heater, you will need to use some water heater troubleshooting ideas to rectify the problem.

One situation you might encounter is when your water heater won’t produce hot water.

At this point, water heater troubleshooting becomes urgent because you will usually need to have hot water available for a number of household uses.

Step 1 - Power

circuit breakers

Ensure the water heater has power. Because the water heater will be hardwired in, this part of water heater troubleshooting involves checking the circuit breaker to see if it’s been tripped.

If it has, turn the breaker back on and the water will heat up; it will take some time before you have hot water again, however.

If the circuit breaker keeps tripping, you need to find the cause of it. This might well be down to a problem with your wiring.

In this situation, unless you’re very experienced with electricity, the best solution is to call in an electrician.

Step 2 - Pilot Light

blue pilot light flame

If your water heater is gas operated, you’ll need to make sure that the pilot light is lit. Without it, you won’t be able to heat any water.

To check the pilot light, remove the cover and look inside the heater. The pilot light will usually be obvious.

If it’s gone out, follow the manufacturer’s instructions, which should be printed or stuck on the heater, in order to relight it.

Once alight, the water will still need time to heat up. Check the pilot light several times over the next hour to ensure it stays lit.

Step 3 - Thermostat

man repairing a water heater

Before you check the thermostat, you need to make sure the electricity to the water heater is off. This should be done at the circuit breaker.

You also need to drain the water heater tank. You should either have a hose that diverts the water outdoors or, alternatively, you’ll need a bucket to help with the task.

Turn off the water to the water heater first. This will allow you to access the thermostat via the front panel of the water heater.

Unscrew the thermostat and remove it. The simplest solution is to replace it with a new thermostat by simply screwing it into place.

Always replace the gaskets at the same time. Close the drain spigot, refill the tank, switch the breaker back on, and wait to see if you have hot water.

Step 4 - Heating Element

Man adjusting temperature on a water heater

If the thermostat is fine, but the water still won’t heat, your water heater troubleshooting steps will lead you to conclude the problem will be in the heating element and this will need to be replaced.

Turn off the electricity and water and drain the tank as before. The heating element will unscrew or unbolt from the service panel, depending on the make of the water heater.

Replace the heating element and close the service panel. Checking the drain spigot is closed, turn the water back on and allow the tank to fill.

Turn on the electricity and give the water time to heat. This should take care of the problem with the water heater.