Electric hot water heater problems

Updated February 21, 2017

It's easy not to think much about the electric hot water heater until a problem occurs. Though water heaters are one of the most important home appliances, they are typically forgotten about and improperly maintained by homeowners until there's no hot water for the shower. Fortunately, numerous problems can easily be avoided and unit efficiency better preserved if electrical hot water units are annually maintained.

Noisy Hot Water Pipes

Are the water pipes unusually noisy? Water heaters can become noisy for several reasons. Luckily that doesn't necessarily mean that there's a serious water heater problem. Sediment or lime scale build-up in the tank burns on the heating element and would result in steam and unwanted noise. Another cause could be from low water pressure, which would cause spot boiling and result in noise as well. The problem could also derive from voltage going beyond the capacity of the heating element.

Tank Slowly Reheating Water

Electric water heaters not recovering as quickly as they should could have several issues affecting the tank's reheating ability. Hot water usage could be more than what the tank can handle and may necessitate a larger capacity tank if hot water usage cannot be reduced. The thermostat could have been set too low and needs to be adjusted accordingly. Any sediment or lime build-up slows down the tank's ability to reheat quickly. Flushing the tank will get rid of any build-up. Or, either the lower heating element or thermostat are faulty and need replacing.

Leaking Pressure Relief or Drain Valve

If the pressure relief valve is leaky, the water temperature may have inadvertently been set too high and needs lowering on the thermostat. The water pressure may be too high and requires a pressure-reducing valve on the supply line installed. The valve could have failed and needs replacing. If the issue is with the drain valve, it is typical of many water heaters to have installed a low-quality valve that can prove difficult to close tight. Make sure the valve is completely tightened and use slip joint pliers if necessary. Another possibility is that the valve failed and only needs to be replaced.

Absolutely No Hot Water

If there is absolutely no hot water running, first check the circuit breaker to see if the circuit breaker tripped. If not, then possibly the heating element burnt or the upper thermostat failed and needs replacing. The Energy Cut Off (ECO), which is the switch that sets the limit on high temperature, could have tripped and only needs resetting.

Annual Maintenance

Water heaters are expensive home appliances that probably get some of the least amount of attention. However, performing yearly maintenance on the tank not only keeps it running efficiently but also is good preventive medicine from serious problems resulting from improper maintenance. Therefore, make sure the tank is flushed completely on an annual basis to be sure there is absolutely no sediment or lime build-up that could ruin the heating element or cause the unit to be less energy efficient or heat inefficient. Not only will this extend the tanks lifespan but it will reduce money spent on costly plumbing repairs.

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About the Author

Shani Valdez has been writing since 2008. She has experience in the financial sector, having worked for Bank of New Hampshire, Fidelity Investments and Carlson GMAC. Her articles have appeared on various websites and she holds a bachelor's degree in political science from the University of New Hampshire.