What to Do If Your Water Heater Isn’t Working

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If your water heater isn’t working properly, it can be a sign of loose heating elements, corrosion, sediment build-up, and more. Some of these issues can be fixed by yourself, but others might require a full tank replacement.
It may not be the most apparent, but your hot water heater is easily the most-used appliance in your home on a day-to-day basis. Your hot water heater is used when washing dishes, showering, doing the laundry, and even just washing your hands.
With constant use, it’s not uncommon for things to go wrong with your hot water heater. Thankfully, most modern heaters are engineered with a very small amount of parts, and you can solve most of the problems without needing to involve a professional.
To help you figure out why your hot water heater isn’t working, and how you can deal with it, the licensed broker and insurance comparison app Jerry has broken down everything you need to know.

Signs your water heater isn’t working properly

There are a few key signs that will let you know your water heater is faulty—and you’ll probably notice them sooner rather than later!
  • There’s not enough hot water (when showering, washing dishes, etc.)
  • Visible leakage around the water heater
  • Water is coming out smelly or discolored (brown, yellow)
  • You can hear unusual sounds, like cracks, pops, whining, or boiling from your heater

Reasons your waters heater isn’t working

There’s a multitude of reasons that your water heater may be defective, and different signs may point to different causes. Some of the most common reasons for a faulty water heater are:
  • If you aren’t receiving any hot water—your heater may not be getting enough power, have a tripped limit switch, or have failed heating elements
  • If you see leaks—your heater may have loose heating elements or tank corrosion
  • If your water is discolored or odorous—your heater might have corrosion or bacteria inside the tank
  • If your heater is making noises—your heater might have an excessive build-up of sediment
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How to fix your water heater

It’s surprisingly easy to fix a lot of the issues you may have with your water heater. Some can be done with tools found at home, but more severe issues might require you to replace your water heater. Here are some common fixes that just require a repair: 

No hot water?

You can try resetting the high-temperature limit on the heater. 
Start by turning off the heater’s circuit breaker.
Remove the access panel, insulation, and safety guard to access the upper heating elements. Press the red button above the thermostat to reset the temperature.
Replace all of the items you removed and turn the circuit breaker back on. You can test the water temperature to see if it’s fixed—if not, test the other heating elements and replace them if necessary.

Discoloration or odors?

This is usually a symptom of corrosion or sediment in the tank.
Try flushing the tank thoroughly to remove any buildup or sediment—if that doesn’t work, there’s most likely an issue with the tank’s anode rod.
You can attempt to replace the anode rod yourself if you’re up to the task, but if you don’t have a lot of experience fixing plumbing around the house, then it might be best to call a professional.


Any loud pops, cracks, or bangs from your tank might also indicate sediment buildup.
Draining and flushing your tank will hopefully get rid of the sediment. If this doesn’t work, there might be a deeper issue with the heating element burning out.
If that’s the case, you should call a professional to assess your water heater and determine whether it needs to be replaced.

When to call a professional

There are a few issues that can occur with your hot water heater that should be dealt with by a professional—trying to DIY these problems can lead to more expensive repairs down the road!
  • Water is leaking from the tank. This is usually caused by loose pipes or defective valves and requires a full tank replacement
  • A broken gas valve. You may smell rotten eggs or garbage due to a leak in your gas line—immediately switch your gas off and call a professional
  • Rust around the bottom of the tank. Water has leaked through to the outside of the tank so it should be replaced as soon as possible

Need a replacement?

If you do end up having to replace your hot water heater tank, this can cost you anywhere from $600 to $1,800 on average. You can also go tankless, which will set you back between $800 and $3,500.

How to save money with Jerry

Dealing with issues regarding household equipment and hardware can be a hassle, but it’s important to stay on top of your maintenance to prevent any further issues down the line. Staying on top of your home insurance is another great way to save time and money for your future self.
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There are a number of reasons why your hot water heater may be faulty:
Loose/damaged in-line vale
Broken or cracked heating elements
Sediment buildup in the tank
Corrosion in the tank
If you’ve taken a look at your hot water heater and can’t diagnose the problem, it might be best to get a professional to take a look at it.
Costs will vary depending on specific rates where you live, but a new water heater tank can cost between $600-$1,800.
A tankless water heater can cost between $800-$3,500.

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