Why Your Water Heater Runs Out of Hot Water Quickly

water heater out of hot water

There is arguably almost nothing worse than climbing into the tub or shower only to find that you are getting only luke warm or cold water as a result of a broken or malfunctioning water heater.  When the water is luke warm, you might jump in quick hoping to beat the clock by getting a quick cleanup before the temp becomes unbearably cold.

There are a few things you can do as a homeowner to try to get things back in working order.  

The First is to Attempt to Relight the Water Heater

Older heaters have to be lit with a match.  Yes! Plumbing uses our handy torch to do so since we can actually reach into the combustion chamber easily with that tool.  If you don’t have one or don’t know where to place the match, read the owner’s manual for your brand and model of water heater. If you don’t have one, most can be found online at the manufacturer’s website. A little tip – if you have the type of water heater that requires manual lighting, it is waaaaaaaaaay easier if you get one of those long stem butane lighters made for lighting grills. It makes reaching the pilot area much easier.  

Newer water heaters are very different from the old standing pilot types.  They are what is referred to as sealed combustion water heaters and you can’t access the combustion area where the pilot flame is without tools. These heaters can have a standing pilot or an ignitor/pilot which only turns on when heat is called for.

Both types usually have electronic piezo ignitors which are activated by a button which is pushed to generate a spark, or they have a pilot generator assembly which uses a red hot piece of metal to ignite the flame every time heat is called for.  Check your owner’s manual for lighting instructions on either type.

Read the Troubleshooting Section of Your Owner’s Manual

The important thing to remember when you discover that your water heater is out is that even though you may have been able to relight it, there is still a problem with your heater that needs to be addressed.  

Water heaters do not just go out for no reason.

The first thing you can do as a homeowner to try to figure the problem out is to read the troubleshooting section of your owner’s manual. Water heater manufacturers want to help you and want to have a good reputation so they are usually pretty good about covering all the usual bases in their troubleshooting guides.  If you own a Yes! Plumbing brand water heater, just give us a call and we’ll be happy to email a new troubleshooting list to you.

Possible Causes of No Hot Water

1.) The Thermocouple is Going Bad

In the old style heaters the usual cause of pilot failure/cold water is the thermocouple.  The thermocouple is the part of the heater that is heated by the pilot flame. The flame heat actually generates a tiny electrical charge in the thermocouple.  That electrical charge in turn open a little spring loaded magnetic needle valve inside the gas valve which keeps the gas flowing and the pilot lit so when the heater needs to heat up, it can ignite and do its job.  If that thermocouple fails by not generating its electrical charge, the needle valve automatically closes and the pilot goes out. When the valve closes it also tells the gas control valve not to allow gas into the combustion chamber.  The result—no hot water. Sometimes when a thermocouple is going bad it will fail intermittently. So you might be able to relight it today, but it may fail again tomorrow.

2.) The Vent is Compromised

On either type of heater another problem can be venting problems.  If the vent has become compromised (clogged or broken in some way) the heater will starve for oxygen and go out.  Or on days with heavy winds, the wind can actually blow the heater out.

On newer heaters, a combustion air problem can be caused by clogged filters.  Cleaning the filters will usually resolve the problem. Most newer heater have a reset button behind the burner cover which can be pushed after cleaning to get the heater in condition to refire.

3.) Gas Control Valve Failure

Another cause can be the gas control valve failure.  Older valves are cheaper. Newer ones are very expensive (over $300).  You should consult the troubleshooting guide to determine if your gas control valve has failed.  If it has the only option is replacement of the valve. If your heater has the old style valve, you should consider replacement of the water heater at that point as the cost of repair is probably more than the old heater is worse.  We recently advised a client of the repair or replacement option on his 75 gallon heater and against our advice, he repaired the gas valve. Two weeks late he called us to let us know he needed a new heater. His old one was leaking.

And of course, if you need our help or expertise in your situation, you can always call Yes! Plumbing.  We have live operators standing by 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Read our reviews to see for yourself why customers choose us!