Author Topic: Water heater intermittently not hot enough  (Read 3935 times)

La Bibliotecaria Feroz

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Water heater intermittently not hot enough
« on: February 09, 2016, 01:42:40 PM »
I'm actually not sure if this is a house-wide problem, or specific to the downstairs shower (I THINK the latter, but since I don't take a shower in the sink or the kids' bathtub, I just dunno for sure).

Anyway, although we have the (electric tank-style) water heater set at a normal level (at least 120 degrees--we may even have turned it up past that), some nights we just don't get really hot showers; I would say it's more than "lukewarm" but definitely not satisfactory. (If I run a tub full of water for a bath, same problem--some nights it is hot enough, other nights I get chilly too soon.) Some nights it's hot enough, but only with the hot water turned on ALL the way.

Mr. FP said, "call a plumber," but I'd like to gather some information first. I do not know anything about plumbing or water heaters. What questions should I be asking or investigating before calling for help?

Rollin

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Re: Water heater intermittently not hot enough
« Reply #1 on: February 09, 2016, 01:58:25 PM »
Do you have a load management system installed by your power company?  They can interrupt some of your "systems" (like AC or hot water) when they need to balance the system. It should show on your power bill as a credit, but it could be installed and still working, but not on your bill.

La Bibliotecaria Feroz

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Re: Water heater intermittently not hot enough
« Reply #2 on: February 09, 2016, 02:14:18 PM »
Do you have a load management system installed by your power company?  They can interrupt some of your "systems" (like AC or hot water) when they need to balance the system. It should show on your power bill as a credit, but it could be installed and still working, but not on your bill.

Pretty sure no--looks like that XCel only does that in the summer and only with AC (which we don't even have--we have a swamp cooler).

Grosgrain

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Re: Water heater intermittently not hot enough
« Reply #3 on: February 09, 2016, 03:58:11 PM »
First of all, I would suggest running some tests to see if the problem is happening in your other bathroom.  If so, your water heater is probably the culprit.

How old is your water heater?  Ours was exhibiting similar symptoms last year - running out of hot water, super hot water, lukewarm water.  We have an electric 50 gal. tank water heater that wasn't more than 6-7 years old.  We rolled the dice and replaced the thermostats since my online research indicated that this could be the issue. Problem solved. No plumber or electrician needed.  The parts are less than $30.  Replacement is not difficult and does not require draining the tank.  Just be sure to shut off the breaker before opening up the access panels. There are lots of tutorials online. You may also want to research the signs of a failing element.

On the other hand, if your water heater is old (10 yrs or more) or you see any leaking around the tank, you may need to replace it.  I replaced one in my early twenties. It's not difficult if you have an electric water heater and you buy the same size replacement heater.  Again, caution is in order with making the electrical connection.

If you find the problem is only occurring in your one shower, it could be an issue with the mechanism that mixes hot and cold water. We have a Moen faucet in our shower that uses a cartridge in the mixer. A random piece of gunk in the city water clogged part of the plastic cartridge causing issues with the water temp. Again, this was a DIY fix. It did require a special tool to pull the cartridge. We bought a new cartridge at our local home center, reinstalled, and problem solved. 

Tom Bri

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Re: Water heater intermittently not hot enough
« Reply #4 on: February 09, 2016, 04:22:08 PM »
We had this problem earlier this year, with a gas heater. I drained and flushed the tank, got out all kinds of built-up crud, and it is much improved.

justajane

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Re: Water heater intermittently not hot enough
« Reply #5 on: February 09, 2016, 04:36:35 PM »
We have this problem as well, especially if hot water hasn't been used in the house for over 12 hours. So, if I know I'm going to be taking a shower later, I "warm up" the water in the tank by washing some dishes or running a load of laundry so that I have a hot shower. I'm sure there is a way to fix this, but I just deal with it for now. We've got much bigger fish to fry in terms of house maintenance at the moment.

Dicey

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Re: Water heater intermittently not hot enough
« Reply #6 on: February 09, 2016, 11:27:47 PM »
DH says the thermocoupler is probably bad (i.e. not reading the temperature correctly) and needs to be replaced. Not terribly expensive or difficult. You Tube is you friend.

Goldielocks

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Re: Water heater intermittently not hot enough
« Reply #7 on: February 10, 2016, 01:49:36 AM »
Also check for deterioration -- unscrew an aerator from a sink faucet and look for "debris" or "sand" the size of coffee grounds.  That debris is often from the inside of your hot water tank.

That is a sign that the dip tube in the center of the heater is worn out, and your tank needs replacing (as this wear is often more extensive).
But - likely note, as that just usually gets you with much shorter hot showers..  e.g., it is hot, then its not.  or it takes a very long time to heat up after another person showers, etc.


mskyle

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Re: Water heater intermittently not hot enough
« Reply #8 on: February 10, 2016, 02:21:57 PM »
We have this problem as well, especially if hot water hasn't been used in the house for over 12 hours. So, if I know I'm going to be taking a shower later, I "warm up" the water in the tank by washing some dishes or running a load of laundry so that I have a hot shower. I'm sure there is a way to fix this, but I just deal with it for now. We've got much bigger fish to fry in terms of house maintenance at the moment.

We have the same problem and we have "solved" it by running what we call a "ghost shower" for a minute or two 15 minutes or so before the first shower on cold mornings. This scares away all the ghosts in the pipes. Sometimes my shower is the ghost shower, if I'm being quick and don't need to wash my hair, etc.

My uninformed, non-ghost-based diagnosis is that the thermostat on our hot water heater allows too much variance in temperature. I've been told this is fixable, but we rent and the HWH is ancient and wrapped in a hundred layers of fiberglass blanket and ghost showers do the trick.

I don't think OP's problem is the thermocouple because they say their HWH is electric.

La Bibliotecaria Feroz

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Re: Water heater intermittently not hot enough
« Reply #9 on: February 11, 2016, 02:28:00 PM »
Wow, lots of ideas! FWIW we have NEVER run out of hot water (not that we are big users) and it is NEVER too hot. Not hot enough is the only problem.

What kind of tests should I do to check the other sinks and whatnot? Run the water and check it with a meat thermometer, or is there something more sophisticated I should do?

southern granny

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Re: Water heater intermittently not hot enough
« Reply #10 on: February 11, 2016, 06:53:18 PM »
I don't have a solution, but I am having the same problem and we have a gas water heater.  Some days the water is plenty hot, but other days I go to take a bath and I run only hot water and it never gets hot enough to even need to turn on any cold water.  It is hot enough for a quick bath, but not for a long hot soak.  Ours is several years old, so will probably have to replace when the problem gets worse.

greaper007

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Re: Water heater intermittently not hot enough
« Reply #11 on: February 11, 2016, 11:14:40 PM »
My gas heater seems to have a very wide temperature band, so on the morning it's only lukewarm for the shower.   My solution is to manually turn the thermostat up to a higher temperature (until the gas kicks on) and then turn it back down to.my desired temp.   In 5-10 mins it's at an acceptable temp.


I'll also put a load of laundry in the night before and set the timer on the unit for an hour before the shower.  Though I don't always have a load ready to go.