DIY Plumbing: No Hot Water!

Updated on April 6, 2016

First-Things-First: Gas or Electric?

Oh no, you've got no hot water! Hang on, don't call the plumber quite yet. Take a moment to troubleshoot because there are several minor issues that are easy to fix. Water heaters are some of the most long-lasting and reliable appliances made, sometimes they just need a little attention to get them back on track.

The first thing to do, is to determine if you've got a gas or electric water heater. If you don't already know, take a look at your water heater: it is more-than-likely labeled gas or electric. Also, you may be able to refer to your owner's manual. Perhaps the home is older and you have no manual or label, you can still tell by the following:

  • A gas water heater will have a pilot flame and a way to choose "pilot," "on," and "off."
  • An electric water heater will have some kind of electric plug to power the appliance.
  • A gas water heater will have a vent on the top that looks like a chimney.
  • A gas water heater has a gas line with a shut-off valve that looks like the photo below.

Is Your Water Heater Gas or Electric?

Often, your water heater is labeled as gas...
Often, your water heater is labeled as gas...
...or electric.
...or electric.

Gas Water Heaters


Common Problem #1: The Pilot Light Needs To Be Re-Lit

If you determine that you have a gas water heater, check to make certain that the pilot light is still on. If you are unsure of the location of the pilot light, try looking inside the access or inspection panel that will usually be near the bottom of the tank. You may have to remove a few screws to get inside this panel. You should also find a knob with the choices "pilot," "on," and "off." If you do not see a flame, this is probably the cause of your troubles. To re-light the pilot flame:

  • Turn the pilot switch or knob to "off" for a few seconds.
  • Turn the switch to "pilot" to light the flame.
  • Once the pilot is lit, switch the knob to "on."
  • If the flame stays lit, you are back in business. You should have hot water soon.

Make Sure That The Gas Is Turned On

It may be as simple as turning on the gas to the water heater.  This handle is in the "off" position.
It may be as simple as turning on the gas to the water heater. This handle is in the "off" position.

Common Problem #2: No Gas

If you could not light the pilot or it won't stay lit, the problem might be the gas supply.

  • Make sure the valve handle on the gas line is aligned with the pipe. If it is not, your gas is just turned off; simply turn it on (see photo, right.)
  • Make sure the gas to your home is on and in supply. To test this, turn on another gas powered appliance in your home, such as a gas burner.

Common Problem #3: Gas Water Heater Thermostat Is Set Too Low

Check the thermostat on the water heater. It should be in the "normal" range (120°-135°F or around 50°C.) If it is not, this is your problem; turn it up. If it is, try resetting it by turning it all the way down and then back up again, you should hear the water heater kick back on.

Gas Water Heater Thermostat

The thermostat on you water heater should be set to 120-135F or around 50C.
The thermostat on you water heater should be set to 120-135F or around 50C.

Check Your Circuit Panel

Resetting a circuit is as easy as flipping a switch.
Resetting a circuit is as easy as flipping a switch.

Electric Water Heater

Common Problem #1: The Circuit Breaker Needs To Be Reset

As with any electric appliance, the first thing to check if your electric water heater fails, is your circuit breaker box (or fuse box in older homes.) Check to see if the circuit to the water heater needs to be reset. If you have a fuse box (will look like little glass windows instead of switches,) you may need to replace a burned out fuse.

More About Resetting Breakers and Replacing Fuses

Common Problem #2: Electric Water Heater Thermostat Is Set Too Low

Check the thermostat on the water heater. It should be in the "normal" range (120°-135°F or around 50°C.) If it is not, this is your problem; turn it up. If it is, try resetting it by turning it all the way down and then back up again, you should hear the water heater kick back on.

When To Call In The Professionals

If you have any of the following problems with your water heater, it probably means that your appliance is simply worn out and it is time for a replacement:

  • Cracks, leaks or rust on the tank
  • Rust in the water
  • Smelly water (smells like sulfur)
  • Unusual, alarming noises coming from the water heater or adjacent pipes
  • None of the trouble shooting list above worked

In this case, I strongly caution against trying to install a new water heater yourself. This will often void your warranty and could be just plain dangerous!

Do you have a gas or electric water heater?

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Questions & Answers

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      • profile image

        Veronica Scarberry 5 weeks ago

        I had a tankless for almost 5 years but it needed flusher about every 6-8 months it was getting expensive and the water pressure was low as the hot water lasted only 5 minutes in the shower and it turned cold after you soaped up only to rinse off with cold water. I had a new 30-gallon gas heater put in now I have no hot water just cold coming out of the faucets the heater pilot is on and the water is getting hot in the heater, not in the home. had new water pipes installed 4 years ago the new flex type. It would be nice to take a hot shower instead of a bird bath.

      • profile image

        Lisa behre 6 months ago

        Need to figure out why I'm not getting hot water

      • profile image

        Carol 21 months ago

        This is amazing information! Checked both thermostats (upper one needed to be turned up) and hit the reset button, now we have hot water and didn't cost me a dime!! Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!

      • Andro da Costa profile image

        Andro da Costa 2 years ago

        Fantastic information in this article ! Also another great place for information can be found here http://www.waterheatergeek.com

      • Mrs. Menagerie profile image
        Author

        Mrs. Menagerie 3 years ago from The Zoo

        Glad this helped!

      • profile image

        Christina 3 years ago

        Thank you!!!! All I had to do was reset the breaker. Whew. Thank you so much!

      • Caleb Hart profile image

        Caleb Hart 3 years ago from Provo, Utah

        This post answered a lot of my questions about my boiler. I have had my hot water going in and out for a few months now. I'm just glad I found this post before winter came. I was at my wit's end for a while and seriously considering calling somebody to come take a look at it, but these tips really helped me diagnose my problem. Thanks for the post! http://www.greenlifeplumbers.com/Plumbing-Services...

      • profile image

        Charlie 4 years ago

        Really helps a lot! thanks for giving some tips and advice. Now i know how to trouble shot water heater. Thumbs up.

        http://www.plumbernorthsydney.com.au

      • profile image

        glen 4 years ago

        it worked, omg, thanks a lot! had no hot water this morning, followed the instructions and now I have hot water.

      • profile image

        Stephanie 4 years ago

        Thank you so much! Other sites I've been on didn't mention resetting the temperature. Such a simple step, and it sounds like things are heating up finally :)

      • MrWaterheater profile image

        MrWaterheater 5 years ago

        A good tip is to flush the water heater - this will ensure maximum efficiency. And this will stop any smelly water problems too!

      • profile image

        gas water heater 5 years ago

        I got good info from your blog.

        Regards:

        http://www.noritz.com/

      • Mrs. Menagerie profile image
        Author

        Mrs. Menagerie 6 years ago from The Zoo

        Are we talking about an electric water heater here?

      • profile image

        Vlad 6 years ago

        Hi, thanks for sharing all your useful tips. However, I've checked all the wires and both elements of the heater, everything seems to be fine, there is power to both elements and both elements are good (checked them with ohm-meter). And still there is no hot water at the tap.

        What to do??

      • Mrs. Menagerie profile image
        Author

        Mrs. Menagerie 6 years ago from The Zoo

        Thank you mrcan, it's nice to meet you!

      • mrcan profile image

        mrcan 6 years ago from Malaysia

        hi I know nothing about plumbing, but after reading through this hub, I learned a lot of great solution and tips.

        Good hub. Voted up

      • Mrs. Menagerie profile image
        Author

        Mrs. Menagerie 6 years ago from The Zoo

        Wow, thanks so much Nspeel!!!!

      • Nspeel profile image

        Nspeel 6 years ago from Myrtle Beach

        I love how in depth you went here great hub on plumbing. I have seen nothing but great plumbing articles out of everyone. Voted up great job this looks worth of "Hub Of The Day."

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