Troubleshooting Water Heater Operational Failures

by Grace Motley

Water heating systems have a few unique failure points that can be hidden by other symptoms. From lukewarm water when hot water is needed to scolding water surprises, a failing or improperly installed water heater can fail with devastating results. Consider a few troubleshooting techniques that can return your water heater to proper operation.

For Excessively Hot Water

There is a difference between constantly heating water and having excessively hot water. A water heater with a broken or damaged sensor will constantly heat water to a set temperature, which will only waste energy. The water will still be roughly the same maximum temperature, but a bigger problem can come from an incorrectly installed water heater.

Commercial-grade water heaters are sometimes used for small laboratories or restaurants with high heat requirements. These water heaters have temperature regulators, which can fail after years or use or if adjusted to higher temperatures. Unfortunately, a homeowner can install one of these high-intensity heaters by mistake.

If your water heater is producing scalding water that can't be safely used for anything, check to see if there is a regulator button or a temperature dial. Either set the dial or order a new regulator. If the regulator is built into the water heater, you'll need to replace the unit or contact a water heater installation professional like those at

Not Enough Or No Hot Water

If there isn't any hot water coming in at all, the heating element or power supply may have failed. First, inspect the water heater carefully. Either hover your hand just a few inches from the water tank (or heating device for tankless water heaters) or wear a padded glove and lightly touch the tank.

If the tank is cool to the touch despite being turned on for heating, make sure that the power supply is working. Inspect the power cable for any damage and look inside the power supply for any damaged wiring.

Unplug the water heater and attach an appliance to make sure that the power socket it working. If it is working, you may need to replace the power supply or the heating element.

Be sure to record the water heater's model number, the contact the manufacturer by phone or the company's website. For the heating element, you may need an attached power supply to avoid difficult wiring.

If you need help installing the proper components or would like an entirely new water heater, contact a water heater installation expert.