Do you know what to do about your water heater problems?

When you have a propane water heater, it’s easy to forget about it until it stops working correctly. What can you do about these issues, and how do you know when it’s time to call a professional?

In this handy guide to common water heater problems, we’ll give you exactly what you need to tackle these problems. Keep reading to learn how to fix your water heater woes – and when to call for some help.

Common Hot Water Heater Problems and Identification

When you encounter these water heater problems, there are usually a few possible culprits. Here’s how to figure out and fix whatever’s making your water heater not work correctly.

One important note before we get started: if you decide to fix your water heater on your own, always be sure to turn off the gas before you begin. And anytime you’re not comfortable doing a fix on your own, call a professional instead.

1. Water Not Heating Up

When there’s no hot water at all, you’ll quickly want to find a solution. No one likes cold showers every day!

Cause: Pilot Light is Out

One possible cause is that the pilot light went out. The pilot light is responsible for igniting the burner. If it goes out, your water will never get hot in the first place, since the burner won’t be on.

The solution for this cause is simple: relight the pilot light. Some water heaters have built-in ignitors, while with others, you’ll need to use a match. Check the instructions printed on your water heater to find out how to light it.

Make sure to follow the instructions exactly. They often tell you to wait for a certain amount of time before taking the next step–it’s for your safety, so be patient.

If your pilot light keeps going out, you will want to call a professional, since you’ll probably get tired of lighting it all the time.

Cause: Thermocouple Malfunction

The thermocouple senses when the pilot light is on. It functions as a traffic light; when the pilot light is on, it gives the gas valve the “green light” to release the gas to the burner.

However, if the thermocouple starts to signal that the pilot light is out even when it’s on, the gas won’t be able to get to the burner, so your water won’t be hot.

To fix this problem, you need to replace the thermocouple. You don’t have to drain the hot water tank to do this, but the task can still be difficult. If you’re not very handy with complicated fixes, call a professional.

Before replacing the thermocouple, be sure to take out the gas manifold assembly, and turn off the hot water tank.

2. Hot Water Not Hot Enough

When you want hot water, you need it to be hot, and stay hot. Does the water turn cold before the tub is full? Are your hot showers suddenly lukewarm instead?

This isn’t as bad as no hot water, but it gets unpleasant fast. Let’s take a look at the possible causes and solutions.

Cause: Thermostat Issues

The thermostat is usually built into your hot water heater’s gas valve. To replace it, you may have to replace the whole gas valve.

But before you decide whether to do that, first see if you can adjust the temperature settings. The owner’s manual can help you determine how, but if you can’t find it, a standard setting is typically 120 degrees.

Be careful anytime you’re increasing the water temperature. A higher temperature increases your risk of burns, so turn it up gradually.

Cause: Tank Is Too Small

You should check the adequacy of your tank size. A larger tank means more hot water. If your tank is too small for the household, it might not be able to make enough hot water.

As you use hot water in your home, the tank refills with cold water. If you use a lot of the hot water, a lot of cold water is added, giving you lukewarm water. For a household of five or more people, a tank size of over 50 gallons is usually appropriate. The larger the tank, the more hot water you have to use.

Cause: Hot Water Vent Issues

Your water heater needs airflow to stay burning. Fires need oxygen. If there’s not enough airflow, your water won’t heat up very fast.

A clogged air vent can prevent the water from heating up, and it can also allow for dangerous carbon monoxide exposure. Most of the time, water heaters have built-in carbon monoxide detectors and will shut off if the risk is too high. However, you should always make sure the air vents are working properly to keep you and your family safe.

To clear a blocked air vent, turn off the water heater and look for the blockage. Make sure you are comfortable disconnecting and reconnecting the pipes on the water heater before you attempt to locate the blockage; if not, call a professional. If you find the blockage yourself, you can use a piece of stiff wire to remove it and screw the pipe back into place.

3. Discolored Water

If your water is black or rust-colored, you won’t want to touch it. Here’s how you can get your clear water back.

Cause: Anode Rods Dissolving

Anode rods react with the water and take on rust to keep the rust off your steel water tank. When they start to dissolve after several years, the water can turn rust-colored or black.

The solution is simple: just remove the old anode rod and replace it. There are a few different types of anode rod installation, and a couple of different materials: magnesium and aluminum. These rods last about five years on average, but it depends on how hard your water is. Magnesium rods tend to last longer, but they also cost more.

You’ll need the right kind of wrench to remove the rod, such as socket wrench for a hex head anode rod. If the rod is really falling apart, you may need to cut it out with a hacksaw. This fix is simple in concept, but can be challenging in practice, so you might want to call a professional instead.

What to Do About Hot Water Problems

Most common water heater problems are simple, and as you can see, many of them are easy to fix yourself.

However, there are times when you might run into a less common issue, or find that the fix on this list doesn’t work. That’s when you should call a professional. And any time the DIY fix seems too hard or risky, you should let the professionals take over.

Looking for propane water heater service near you? Check out our service area here.

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