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augustlan's avatar

Can you help me with these water heater problems?

Asked by augustlan (47745points) March 4th, 2011

Two different water heaters, two different issues:

1) My step-son’s electric water heater has been cutting off periodically for the last several weeks. Like it’s tripping some kind of switch (though not the breaker for the water heater). He pushes the red “reset” button, and it comes back on, only to repeat the cycle some time later. If it matters, it’s a relatively new townhouse, maybe 8 years old. What could be causing this?

2) My gas water heater is acting up, as well. My water doesn’t seem to be as hot as it used to be. I have to turn the hot faucet on all the way, and the cold one no more than half way, in order to get a hot enough shower. It runs out quicker, too. By the end of my short-ish shower, I’m rinsing in cold water. NOT FUN. This water heater is probably just getting old, but is there anything I can try before giving up and buying a new one?

Bonus question: If you had to buy a new water heater, would you spring for one of those tank-less ‘instant’ water heaters that are out now? Pros and cons?

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11 Answers

RocketGuy's avatar

Tankless water heaters will use less energy, but I live in earthquake country so I like having 50 gal. of water sitting in the garage “just in case…”.

I think both your water heaters need to be looked at.

perspicacious's avatar

I don’t really know about your two issues. My water heater is 40 years old, electric, and still working like a charm. Knock on wood!!!!

I think the tankless water heater is a great concept. I only know two people who converted to tankless and both have now gone back to a standard electric heater. I heard complaints about no hot water when the dishwasher or washing machine was filling. One guy had to have his tankless repaired twice in a year. The third time it shopped working, he went back to standard tank heater.

12Oaks's avatar

It sounds like the electric may be shorting and time for a new one.

Before I get that gas one looked at professionally, I’d look at the thermostat on the thing. It may have gotten turned down somehow. Some people turn in down when they go on vacation and forget to turn it back up. Depending where it’s at, it could have been bumped or turned down accidentally another way.

If either or both need replacing, try to get the same model. If you could, installation is very easy as all the pipes are already ran and in the right place. Simple as pie.

As far as the bonus, my thought process would be “Do I want to pay much more now for a water heater so save more in the long run?” For me, a lot would have to do with if I could install the tankless myself. Though, even so, I’d probably install the same make/model I have now for I know I could install that myself with no problems. Criteria may vary to the individual.

WestRiverrat's avatar

I looked at tankless heaters when I was building. The electric ones don’t heat enough to work in my climate, they will only heat the water about 20 degrees over what it is coming in.

The tankless gas heaters work better, but I didn’t want to have an LP tank sitting on my property.

augustlan's avatar

@WestRiverrat I actually have a gas line coming into my house, so no LP tank would be required. (Not that it matters, really… I have a giant heating oil tank in my basement, because that’s what my furnace runs on. I have NO CLUE why only my water heater is on the gas line. Even my stove is electric. The prior owners of this old house made some really strange choices…)

MilkyWay's avatar

About the gas heater… have you tried checking the water and air pressure?
my dad showed me how you have to balance the two to ensure you get hot water on time…

MilkyWay's avatar

about your son’s water heater . . . I have the same heater I think. What happens is that when the heater reaches a certain tempreture for a certain amount it time it switches off to make sure it doesn’t exceed a certain tempreture ( fire safety? ). Mine turns back on after 30 mins or so…

filmfann's avatar

I have an answer for 2 of your 3 questions.
You need to drain your gas water heater. Sedament buildup will cause the problems you are experiencing. Shut off the water going in, run a hose to the drain on it, and put the other end outside. You can expand the life of your water heater by doing this every year or so.
During our last remodel, we got rid of the water heater that was in a closet in the middle of the house, and had a tankless put outside. (we were then able to put up a nice linen closet where the water heater had been) Because the tankless is now outside, it takes longer for the hot water to reach the showers and sinks, but once we get it, it is an endless supply, which is very nice. Another bad point would be that the water has to be running at a good rate for the tankless to engage, so during summer, when you only want a little hot water during the shower, you may not get any.
I have not found any gas savings with the tankless. I have the temp set at 140, which is pretty hot.

BarnacleBill's avatar

Not sure about your son’s but for yours, if the water is slow to recover, it could be sediment in the bottom of your water heater. Have you ever drained the tank?

Also there is a thing called a dip tube that can be broken or loose. It makes cold water run through the tank faster than normal.

Brian1946's avatar

As previously mentioned, it could due to accumulated sediment at the bottom of the gas heater.
The manufacturers usually recommend draining the tank about once every 6 months.
You should see a spigot at the bottom of the heater.

augustlan's avatar

Thank you for all the advice. I, um, have never drained the tank. I didn’t even know you were supposed to! Sounds like we have a weekend project on our hands. I’m still interested in hearing more from anyone who has experience with the tank-less water heaters, too.

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