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Why You’re Running Out of Hot Water So Fast

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Picture this: you’re enjoying a soothing, hot shower when, all of a sudden, the water becomes freezing. The sudden shock of cold water may have you screaming a few words you aren’t proud of. If you experience this almost daily, you won’t need to visualize it because you already live it. Or maybe you’re wondering why you seem to be using more hot water than usual lately. 

It’s time to stop asking questions and start seeking the solution. If you’re running out of hot water, it’s most likely a problem with your hot water heater. Get in touch with the technicians at FLAME for all your water heater repairs and replacement needs.

How a Water Heater Works

A tank-type water heating system stores hot water in a large enclosed cylinder in a basement or utility room. When hot water taps are turned on, the tank heats the water and keeps it warm. It has a heating system, a thermostat, and insulation to maintain temperature between heating cycles. A water supply pipe supplies cold water to the tank, while a heating element heats the water. The hot water delivery pipe connects to pipes for sinks, baths, and showers.

Types of Water Heaters

Solar

  • It can be used in any climate
  • Powered by sunshine
  • Up to 50% more efficient than gas or electric systems
  • The most expensive water heater option
  • It can last up to  20 years

Storage Tank

  • Uses a tank
  • Runs on electric, natural gas, or propane
  • Provides direct heat
  • The most affordable water heater
  • It can last between 10-15 years

Heat Pump

  • Uses a tank for hot water storage.
  • Uses electricity to move heat
  • Provides indirect heat
  • It can last between  10–15 years

Tankless Water Heaters

  • Heat water immediately when a hot water tap is turned on
  • Runs on electricity, natural gas, or propane
  • Provides direct heat
  • Can last for 20+ years

Combination Water and Space Heating Systems 

  • Also known as integrated or tankless coil and indirect
  • Heats water using a home’s heating system
  • Runs on electricity, natural gas, propane, or fuel oil.
  • Has a lifespan of 10–11 years.
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How Long Should Hot Water Last?

For a  40-gallon water heater to function correctly, it must be able to hold heat for 45 to 60 minutes. The amount will change based on several factors, including your tank’s insulation and whether it runs on gas or electricity.

Top Reasons You’re Running Out of Water

Instant tankless electric water heater installed on white tile wall

Demanding Too Much

Conventional and tankless water heaters have limited capacity to deliver hot water. Overuse can lead to sudden water shortages.

Sediment Build-Up

Sediment build-up can cause rapid water shortages due to loose minerals.

Damaged Heating Element

Damaged heating elements at the bottom and top of the tank can cause cold showers.

Broken Dip Tubes

Broken dip tubes can lower the water temperature in faucets and showers because cold water mixes with hot water.

How To Fix Hot Water Issues

Turn up the thermostat: Adjust the thermostat to 120–140 degrees Fahrenheit if the hot water supply isn’t sufficient, but avoid exceeding 140 degrees to prevent scalding and bacterial growth.

Check circuit breaker: If your water heater isn’t producing hot water, check if its circuit breaker hasn’t tripped and switch it back on from the main circuit panel.

Electric water heater malfunction: Gas or electric water heaters can cause hot water issues, but electrical issues may be the root cause. Check for loose connections and tripped circuit breaker fuses. If it is still unresponsive, contact a qualified electrician.

Repair dip tube: Dip tubes, which are long plastic tubes, push incoming water to the tank bottom. Heated water rises to the top, but if broken, cold water stays at the top, requiring professional repair.

Add insulation: Insulating your water heater can increase efficiency, reduce standby heat losses, and could save you 7–16% on water bills. Invest in new exterior insulation or install pre-packaged insulation around the unit.

Flush the tank: If sediment and minerals build up, water heaters can become clogged and inefficient. Homeowners can flush them, but caution is advised due to hot water and surfaces.

Wrong size tank: The tank size of your water heater tank should be increased to accommodate the growing household needs and to accommodate longer heating times, especially for electric units.

Replace the unit: Water heaters, typically 8–12 years old, should be replaced if they show signs of aging. Modern, energy-efficient models provide sufficient hot water without increasing utility bills.

Look for Leaks:

  • Gas: Gas line leaks can be dangerous and prevent water heaters from working. If you smell a “rotten egg” odor, you should inspect the connections, shut off valves, and check the gas pipes for wetness or odor. If suspicious, call the police and the utility company, and do not attempt to repair the line.
  • Water Tank: Leakage in water heater tanks can cause water leakage, posing a safety risk and requiring replacement. Check connections, valves, and pipes for secure compartments.

Check pilot light: If your hot water faucet is cold, your water heater’s pilot light may be out. Modern heaters may have glow plugs or spark igniters. Check for marks on the burner, and use a simple technique to relight the pilot. If the light doesn’t ignite, check the gas inlet valve.

Blame the weather: Colder temperatures during the winter can create water issues affecting water heater efficiency and performance. This is especially true in regions that see extremely low temperatures, like Michigan.

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Resetting Your Water Heater

The water heater may need to be relit to reset it. To achieve this, press the reset button on an electric hot water heater if one exists. However, if there is not one, simply unplug it for a few minutes and then reconnect it. If the issue persists, reset the circuit breaker for the hot water heater.

Ways to Prevent Lack of Hot Water

Signs You Need a New Water Heater

gas water heater in a home's basement

  • A water heater over 10 years old may not be functioning properly.
  • Sediment accumulation in the tank can cause loud or strange sounds during water heating.
  • Lower efficiency due to increased energy consumption for heating water.
  • Inefficient acceleration is due to silt accumulation, causing the tank to wear off faster and lead to potential leaks.
  • Unclean water could rust the heater, causing it to erode and leak water.
  • Water circling near the heater is likely a leak.
  • Water leaks need to be promptly and professionally addressed, as they can cause serious property damage.

The Takeaway

Regular maintenance of your hot water heater is crucial for its longevity and efficiency. This includes emptying the tank, controlling the temperature, insulating the tank, inspecting the pressure relief valve, detecting leaks, and cleaning the tank. Regular maintenance not only enhances the heater’s efficiency but also saves you money on utility bills and energy. 

Contact the experts at FLAME for more information about water heaters, plumbing, repairs, and replacement needs. 

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