A Light in the Dark
Many newer water heaters have a blinking light toward the bottom. Ideally, it should flash once every few seconds – this means everything is normal. For other problems, it may adjust into groups of blinks. Four fast blinks in a row and then a pause can mean something different than seven fast blinks in a row. The code or meaning behind these blinks should be in the manual, and they can give you a lot of information. Another reason to always keep your owner’s manual!
You may have a gas water heater, or you may have an electric one. Let's talk about gas first, but if you have an electric water heater, skip to that section below. If you need enough water for a shower, bath, laundry, or dishwasher, know that it will take 20-30 minutes after getting the water heater working again to have enough hot water.
Fixing a Gas Water Heater
- First thing's first. The gas supply itself may be shut off. Without gas, there's nothing to burn to create the heat that warms your water. Your water heater will have a gas line leading to it. It's often a yellow tube. If there's someone around who knows the water heater well, ask for their help identifying it.
Follow the line. You should get to a shut-off valve. If the valve is at a 90-degree angle to the line, the gas is off. Turn it so that it follows the same direction as the gas line, so it's in line. This means it's on.
If someone's turned it off, it's a good idea to ask them why. They may have been doing some work that required the gas to be off, in which case it's a very good idea to make sure they're done with that work and it's OK to turn the line on again.
If the line is already on, then your problem lies elsewhere.
- Check the gas water heater's pilot light. A pilot light can go out. Just like a gas stove's igniter, if it's not working, then it can't burn the gas to heat the water. How you relight the pilot light depends on the water heater. In many models, it's as simple as turning a control knob to the 'pilot' and then the 'on' setting.
Older models may require manual re-ignition. Again, if you have the manual model, it's always best to read through instructions in your manual thoroughly so you understand the process. Once turned on, watch that the pilot light stays on consistently so you can be sure there's no problem with the mechanism. If the pilot light repeatedly fails, you'll need professional servicing for your water heater.
Fixing an Electric Water Heater
- Electric water heaters can be much simpler. The most common failure is simply that a circuit breaker got tripped. That's easy enough to fix. Your electric panel should have variously labeled circuit breakers for different parts of your home. If the breaker that delivers power to your electric water heater is tripped, then there's no electric going to the water heater.
To fix this, push the specific breaker switch to the 'off' position. Then push it to the 'on' position. Voila! Your water heater should start heating water again as normal.
- If the circuit breaker wasn't tripped, then you have a different issue. Look at the electric water heater itself. There will be a temperature control panel. It will have a 'reset' button. Is it popped out? There's your problem. Press it back in.
Check back on that button later. If it's popped out again, you have an issue that requires professional electric water heater servicing.
Professional Water Heater Servicing
What's listed above are the most common problems and solutions for each type of water heater. Chances are good that they'll solve your problem. However, there are more complex issues that water heaters can encounter, especially as they get toward the end of their service life. Cold water could be gushing into the wrong part of the water heater, or the heating element itself could be non-functional.
In addition to this, water heaters need regular servicing. You can do some of this yourself or get expert servicing in to do it for you. A properly maintained and serviced water heater can actually double its life, which can save a lot of money you'd spend on purchasing a new one.
Above all, a broken water heater won't fix itself or improve in condition. Getting the problem solved earlier will increase the chance the water heater just needs repair and not total replacement. If you have questions about your water heater, give Action Services a call.